School can be a hostile environment – particularly for those who don’t quite fit in. A Colony centers around Mylia (Émilie Bierre), whose entry into high school marks the end of childhood and the beginning of teenage life. She inhabits the position of an outsider in the small rural town where she lives, and is eager to make a good impression with a whole new set of classmates in the nearest bigger city.
In this transition, Mylia attempts to leave behind her clingy younger sister Camille (Irlande Côté), choosing instead the company of the popular Jacinthe (Cassandra Gosselin Pelletier). This path of exploring new and different options for herself, however, is quickly revealed to be a mistake: Jacinthe and her friends push Mylia into unwanted situations, leaving her more and more overwhelmed. Jimmy (Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie), a boy from an Abenaki reservation nearby, becomes a welcome reprieve from this high-school drama. Through him, Mylia gains an increasing awareness of her country’s history with indigenous people, as well as the lingering racist attitudes of her white classmates.
There are only few adults shown in the film, though the tension between Mylia’s parents is always present as an undercurrent. The camera stays with the three children, dipping into their world: the landscape of late summer is often beautifully drenched in gold, the countryside painted as an idyll in which they can run wild. This serves as a stark contrast to scenes that reflect Mylia’s discomfort.
Writer-director Geneviève Dulude-De Celles draws on her personal history, creating an intimate and well-crafted portrait of a 12-year-old girl as she deals with issues of otherness. Cleverly using the children’s perspective, A Colony also functions as a clear indictment of the outdated modes of thinking still prevalent in rural Quebec.
CAST: Émilie Bierre, Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie, Irlande Côté, Cassandra Gosselin Pelletier
DIRECTOR: Geneviève Dulude-De Celles
WRITER: Geneviève Dulude-De Celles
SYNOPSIS: As 12 year-old Mylia struggles with her transition to high school and teenage life, she befriends a boy from a local Abenaki reserve.