A “two-spirited” person in Native tradition is a person who identifies with both masculine and feminine spirits and falls into a third gender category. The film Fire Song is one of the first films to deal with two-spirited people. Adam Garnet Jones’ directorial debut is about Shane, a young Anishinaabe man at a crossroads. The film premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
Andrew Martin plays Shane in his feature film debut. He will be present at the screening of the film at Image+Nation 28, Montreal’s LGBT film festival today (December 5, 2015).
Martin found the casting call for Fire Song on Facebook and auditioned in Toronto with his friend Mary Galloway, who plays Shane’s girlfriend Tara. He didn’t know much about it, but took the chance to get back into acting after a break. They were both called for a week-long trial and training workshop in Thunder Bay. Galloway and Martin found out they were cast in the film on the plane flying back to Toronto through the intercom speaker.
Martin’s passion for acting started in high school. He saw a play in Grade 9 and was drawn to theatre.
“Originally, I really liked the lightning and set design, but it all came back to acting and I thought, ‘Wow, these people get to go out on stage and do this every single night,’” he says. Martin started acting in plays through his high school drama club and participating in the Sears Ontario Drama Festival. He got roles in documentaries to play Native warriors before eventually being cast in bigger documentaries and plays in bigger theatre companies.
“I liked theatre more because you don’t have time to go back and fix your mistakes, while in film when you make mistakes you can always go back,” he says.
Martin relates to his character Shane, who represents the age-old story of the small-town kid who wants to leave his community. “I’ll try my best to hold everything together even when it’s falling apart on me and that’s something that I closely related to with Shane,” he explains.
He believes it’s a story that needs to be told, especially among First Nations communities. In some communities, mostly in Northern Territories, it can be dangerous for young gay men like Shane since they are not close to other cities.
“He doesn’t really have many options; it’s either stay in his community and have to basically live a life that he doesn’t want or he can leave and get out to live the life he envisions for himself,” Martin adds. With Fire Song, First Nations communities get to see their communities and their problems put on the big screen, which could give them an idea of what someone like Shane goes through.
The audience should expect a lot of twists and turns, according to Martin, and honesty when it comes to the depiction of First Nations communities and the youth living in them. He believes it is important that people know that what is brought to the screen is something real and that the film is straightforward.
“No bullshit,” he specifies. “It’s a lot to expect and a lot to take in, but at the same time, it does give a bit of a ray of hope through it all.” The characters are very resilient in who they are, what they do and what they ultimately want even though things get very hard and difficult.
“Something that I want people to come away with is a larger understanding of the struggles that First Nations communities have to go through within their communities and even though things might seem okay on the surface, everything underneath is completely not,” Martin says.
Martin’s first experience in a feature film was overwhelming and nerve-wracking. “It was one of the challenges I really liked and one of the challenges I really needed at the time to push myself as an actor in my craft,” says Martin.
The film was shot in 15 days, and they were long days that felt like 17 hours to him. He would get up in the afternoon and go to bed when the sun would start to rise. “It was very long, stressful and tiring but overall, I enjoyed it immensely. It’s something that I would not trade for anything in the world,” Martin says. Since Fire Song, he is now able to put his name forward.
Fire Song premieres tonight as part of the Image+Nation festival.