This documentary forces the smoke in your eyes when it comes to Native cigarettes.
DIRECTED BY JEFF DORN AND CATHERINE BAINBRIDGE (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)
Thursday, May 3, 9 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 Kind Street West)
Friday, May 4, 3:45 p.m.
Cumberland 2 (159 Cumberland Street)
There’s a good chance that if you’ve ever been a smoker at some point you’ve bought Native cigarettes; according to Smoke Traders the Mohawk Nation controls 50 per cent of the cigarette trade in Eastern Canada. While the documentary might not get you to quit cold turkey, it will at the very least make you wonder about the ethical implications not just of buying the smokes but of the production and infrastructure that the industry supports.
Brian, a Mohawk smoke runner, summarizes the issue early on in the film when he flatly states: “We’re pretty much a third world country around here. Cigarettes changed all that.” Interviewing runners (such as Brian), those who worked their way up to start their own cigarette factories, as well as RCMP officers and policy makers, Smoke Traders does not pass judgment on those participating in what is either illegal or an alternative economy, depending on your point of view. Instead, the brisk documentary (clocking in at a mere 51 minutes) asks us to consider the tension between the immediate need for capital in poverty stricken aboriginal communities (for everything from paying bills, to building homes, to supporting local hockey teams) and the question of building a sustainable future (especially when the Canadian government seems to not care). Centring the film around Brian and his quest to get out of running, Smoke Traders is both touching and informative, painting a picture of a part of modern Canada that is rarely profiled.