Silent Tears

Director: Shirley Cheechoo

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Silent Tears is a true story based on the experience of filmmaker Shirley Cheechoo as a nine-year-old girl growing up on a trapline in the northern Ontario bush. Cheechoo’s film tells of a grave illness threatening her father’s life; her mother is forced to operate on him without medical supplies or anesthesia. To Cheechoo as a child, the world seems painful and unfair. However, with defiance and strength, the family overcomes. A 1985 Pontiac is Bonnie Looksaway’s Iron Art Wagon. Bonnie is a young Native art student who takes to the road in an effort to sell her artwork. She encounters trouble and hospitality, and learns some lessons. The film marks actor Wes Studi’s directorial debut. Yellow Wooden Ring deals with the dilemma of being young, of mixed blood, and raised off the reservation. Valma Jaeger (Crystal Lightning) moves to the reservation her mother is from, and finds it difficult to gain acceptance. In the process of learning more about her family and herself, she achieves a genuine sense of place and cultural roots. Suspenseful and intriguing, Rosa’s Time centers on a mysterious salesman, reminiscent of the “trickster” in Native mythology, who touches the lives of a young girl and her single mother. Hartridge (Gary Farmer) is a smooth talker, but his motives are unclear. Yet, in the end, he brings an unusual and revealing gift.

— Heather Rae

Screening Details

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