The Road Forward is an admirable film about an important subject matter. It is specifically about activists in First Nations and Metis in British Columbia. As a colonized person myself, it’s easy to reduce other people of colour as passive. And that’s a stereotype that the film tries to shatter.
Director Marie Clements does that through both musical numbers and talking head interviews. It focuses on British Columbia based groups like the Native Brotherhood. That group started out in the 1930s. However, the people reenacting the Brotherhood’s activities are First Nations and Metis from all over North America.
The film’s musical numbers are like numbers in all films. They start our awkwardly. There are a few things lacking in directing the re-enactors and the latter’s lip synching. And admittedly, small prejudices, like one towards male versus female vocals, come into account here. But what they depict is still pretty interesting.
The Road Forward‘s second musical number, for instance, takes us to a First Nation woman while she’s job hunting. And that piece shows the faces that perpetuates her persecution – the mostly white men turning her away. It shows the imperfection of assimilation. That it still allows the majority to discriminate on the assimilated.
But the film’s portrayal of white people isn’t that unsympathetic. It introduces us to white allies significant to the cause. Many of the re-enactors can also pass as white and have white ancestry. They later discuss their journey in discovering the culture that has been denied from them.
Marie Clements has directed some films before but her background is more on theatre. And it shows not just on the numbers but how they try to pass through time and space. This feels more like a stage piece but I still thank it for its lessons.