In ‘Fire Song‘, Andrew Martin plays Shane, a young Anishnabe man living on a First Nations reserve, struggling to find his identity. The film covers social issues ranging from homosexuality, youth suicide, sexual assault, alcoholism, drug use, family bonds and community spirit.
Martin, a First Nations Canadian from the Mohawk community, was in Sydney for the film’s Australian premiere on March 2nd, and said the reception to the film, both in Canada and Australia, had been extremely positive, particularly with the First Nation community.
Martin said the film contained many messages that were relevant to Indigenous communities’ right around the world.
“Other Indigenous communities go through very similar things that our communities go through in North America. It gives a really unfiltered look at the lives of Indigenous people, whether they’re in North America, Australia or New Zealand – wherever they are – it just gives a raw look at everything,” said Martin.
The personal struggle of deciding whether or not to leave your community is a theme that can also strongly resonate with Indigenous Australians, and in the process, also having to leave their land and area behind that they have such a strong connection to – something Martin can attest to.
“I do think those are very strong factors, especially when it does come to Indigenous communities and their young people wanting to leave. You do see it quite a bit, and it can be a bit of a double-edged sword in some cases – because you can leave and you can go to school, but if you come back to your community, from experiences that other people have shared with me, they’ve been told that what they’ve learned is almost irrelevant to the community, because it’s not useful, it’s not the way they do things.”
And as youth suicide becomes a growing concern among Indigenous communities, in both Canada and Australia, the film holds a microscope over the conditions that rural communities live in, particularly their exposure to drugs and alcohol. Martin said that after having lived away from his community for some time for school, returning was something of an eye-opener.
“I was like ‘wow, I can’t believe we live like this when there are worlds of possibilities out there’, but at the end of the day, especially when you’re on reserves, you work with what you’ve got.”
Fire Song was Martin’s first major role, and while continuing to look for further acting roles, is also producing a script that will continue to concentrate on social issues facing First Nations people.
Further information for the film can be found on the official Facebook site.
Andrew Martin’s visit to Australia for the Mardi Gras Film Festival was supported by the Consulate General of Canada, Sydney.