Mohawk (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

In 1814 North-Eastern United States, a Mohawk woman and her two lovers unleash their fury on a group of militia men who have trespassed onto Mohawk land and want them dead.

Written by Ted Geoghegan and Grady Hendrix, with the former directing, the film is highly researched to be as period accurate as can be with extra information provided/obtained from sources such as Mohawk people living now and ready to share their history and knowledge. The film takes all this research and information and turns it into not just a period accurate story, but also one with believable characters and interactions between both sides of the battle brought onto the screen. The film tells a story filled with violence and humanity. The story concentrates on one woman, her two lovers, the men chasing them, and a few supernatural/spiritual elements that are best left to be discovered. This all works in a way that the film is interesting, entertaining, historically accurate, and has some good battle/fight scenes.

The cast was carefully chosen with actual Native Americans playing the Mohawk people, including Mohawk actress Kaniehtiio Horn as the lead, Oak. She givesd here a strong and passionate performance of a woman who has lost everything and will not let these men get away with it. She fights tooth and nail to keep herself and her people safe. Her performance here shows that she also did her research and put a lot of herself in this part. Playing her two lovers are Justin Rain and Eamon Farren, both giving good performances with Rain having some of the most difficult scenes in the film. Leading the opposing side of the battle is Ezra Buzzington as military leader Hezekiah Holt. He plays evil delightfully well here and just comes off as despicable with a touch of humanity in one scene in particular, giving his character dimension. Also very much worth mentioning is Jon Huber, aka Luke Harper, giving a surprisingly nuanced performance as Lachlan Allsopp, which is not necessarily what one expects of a WWE man.

These performances and this story taking place in the woods of Northern New York state in the early 1800s, the look of the film is also important. The cinematography by Karim Hussain shows these locations, as well as some of the more spiritual/supernatural sequences, beautifully well as is the norm for his work. His talent is used well here and the film looks stunning. That is in all non-shaky-cam scenes, as the much disliked by this reviewer technique does show up a few times and makes a mess of the images and the action. Yes, it usually is used to show chaos or action or certain emotions, but there is nothing like being able to see what is going on in a scene or a battle without having to try to decipher it through crazy camera movements and editing. The film does boast some powerful spiritual/supernatural imagery that is shown in beautiful images and light, giving it something extra to keep the interest adding to the story itself.

Working with the images and the story, the music by Wojciech Golczewski is properly epic mostly throughout the film and is used in a manner to enhance and not over take the scenes, especially on the more emotional ones. The use of chanting being done only a few times also adds to the strength of the music by being strategically used.

Mohawk is overall a very strong second feature film for director Ted Geoghegan with powerful performances, good effects, beautiful images, and a story that is worth seeing. The slight issue with the occasional shaky cam can easily be ignored given the strength of the rest of the film and its imagery.

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.