The world of Amanda Strong’s Flood is a multi-layered one. There’s the realm of the Spider Woman and Thunderbird, a world of connection, creation and storytelling. There’s layer of the flood, a dark, tense world of conflict and danger. And there’s the turn-of-the-century history classroom of the final scene; already a charged setting for an Indigenous story, it’s even more potent given the ongoing confirmation of long-reported horrors in Canada’s residential school system. Each of these layers has its own reality, and each has a different relationship to the layers around it. It’s the questions raised by those relationships that give the film its potency.
The first layer spins the story of the second, where an Indigenous youth, adrift in a flood, faces the ghost of a judge flinging out histories and laws in a torrent of paper. The second layer, then, is a creation of the first, but it is also a representation of the reality of systems, where colonial culture uses its own legal doctrines and distorted, self-serving histories to reshape the world for its own purposes.
The third layer feels the most “real,” using physical sets and 3D puppets instead of the shadow-puppet cutouts of the first two layers. Linger on the set a little longer, though, and that reality is undercut by the stacks of papers echoing the ghost-judge’s deluge, and the cottony clouds spilling through the ceiling. The classroom may be a recognizable place, but it’s also a creation of the second layer, the product of an oppressive system and a tool for its re-creation. And it reconnects with the first layer through the youth’s drawing of the Thunderbird, seeking a future of “land-based education over institutions” and healing through laughter on a path to revitalization.
Strong explicitly leaves the nature of these realms ambiguous, asking the viewer to consider whether each layer is real, or true, and what either of those ideas really means. By avoiding a simple hierarchy and asking questions instead of answering them, the film takes on the power of poetry.
Flood was co-written by Bracken Hanuse Corlett, who also directed the short Ghost Food through Strong’s Spotted Fawn Productions. Strong and Corlett also collaborated on 2015’s Mia, and Strong’s own filmography includes award-winning shorts Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes), Four Faces of the Moon, and How to Steal a Canoe, all of which explore ideas around Indigenous identity, culture, and history through stop-motion animation.
dir: Amanda Strong
syn: Flood is driven by a haunting, yet progressive sound design with two main characters Spider Woman and Thunderbird. They act as vessels, composing and carrying the story of an Indigenous youth named Thunder, navigating her way through a colonial flood. Spider Woman battles against an old Ghost Judge who frenetically writes history from the side of oppression and displacement. The Ghost Judge fills the entire world with his writings and law.
Leaving the viewer to wonder who’s truth is real? What tactics do we use to decolonize, fight back and move forward? Flood is a hybrid of shadow puppetry, digital and stop-motion animation that spins the story truth vs deception.