Devery Jacobs - I try to change the image and show who we really areWritten by Eva Csölleová, Vítek Formánek
There are not that many native born Indians in film business. So when we met at Zlín a Canadian actress Devery Jacobs, who belongs to Mohawk tribe and grew up in Indian reservation Kahnawa:ke near Montreal it sparked our interest. She and director Kirsten Carthew introduced their brand new movie The Sun at Midnight to Czech audience at the festival.
How does such Indian reservation look like? It´s probably much different than it is shown in western movies, isn´t it ?
Yes, completely. It´s modern suburb looking kind of place.Traffic signs and other signs are written in our Mohawk language. Elementary and high schools teach our native language, we have our cultural houses so it is like modern town with pattern of own language, culture and character. We have own language, make our own food, have social ceremonies. My reservation is almost 400 years old. Montreal is celebrating 375 birthday anniversary, which means that we have been booted away to make way for them almost four centuries ago.We are as old as Canada so we live in modern time but hold on to our own traditions.
So it´s your tribe which gave name to hair cut Mohycan which was adopted by punk movement in early 80´s?
What I have been told and taught at school, your hair are your spiritual connection so our men made various hair cuts and they have shaved their head when they went to war. But obviously they left those hair in the middle of their skull so they were able to come back home when they returned from the war. We still have our own costumes and in Canada there are about 500 different native people and all have different regalia, different language and different culture so it´s much more vast than you see in western movies. I also have my Mohawk name which means” Her word means something”. There can´t be two people wearing the same name.
What inspired you to become and actress? Wasn´t it a too distant dream for someone like you from such place?
Our reservation isn´t specifically isolated as most reservations are. We are maybe 30 minutes from Montreal where live almost 3 million people so I think thanks to close proximity of my reservation I was able to begin acting, went for auditions and did stuff like that.
Center of Canadian film is Vancouver and Toronto so was living outside those cities disadvantage for you and harder to get an acting job?
Well, I moved and live in Toronto now to get better chance to film. I went to college in Montreal and New York for a year and I had big connection in New York since Mohawks still owe the skyscraper. Do you know the famous picture of builders sitting on construction of the skyscraper and having lunch? Right, so three of them were Mohawks. So from both sides of my family I have a legacy or iron workers. And I wanted to go there since there is so much history for me there. I was sending tape auditions to agencies in LA and after a year went back to Montreal and my reservation.
Being an original Indian, does it make you more attractive and exotic for film makers so it´s kinda paved the way for you into film industry?
Hm, it´s funny because there aren´t many roles of native people in the film. And if there is any, you deal with stereotypes like hairdressers or tee-pees which there aren´t anymore so what I aim at my career is to change the image and show what really we are. It is something we try to show in the film we brought to Zlín The Sun at Midnight, which is like conflict between modern and traditional ways and days, about clashes of those two worlds coming together.
We read it was made in sub –arctic area so what was filming like? Were you chosen because of your Indian background?
There was a casting across North of America for this character and I was auditioning for that, too and I think they were looking for character with Indian background. It was great experience for me and I think it was first ever feature film made in that part of Northern territory. You know Northern Canada isn´t what people think it is. Their idea is just Polar bears and furry coats but we filmed it in summer and it was pretty nice weather actually. Due to that we didn´t have any technical problems which might have been had we filmed it in winter, which is very cold there That part of the territory has lots of sun and color and we wanted to show people what it really is. My character is city person, like urban princess who meets Duane Howard who plays native character who loves the land.
My film education was job in women´s shelter where I saw lots of human conflicts and it taught me a lot and was helpful in my acting
You had great success with movie called Rhymes for Young Ghouls. Did you actually have any film education or you learn as you walk?
Yes, that film was great success, you know history of genocide of Indians by Canadians is pretty big and pretty dark. I haven´t had any formal training for acting. Before I started pursuing acting career I was working as a counselor at women shelter in Montreal, where was full program of getting the Batchelors and I was able to see lots of human conflict and how people are responding to those situations and it was really helpful in my acting.
Do you intend to become also a director who would make a movie about Indian tribe, which probably would not become a commercial hit but would be a true story?
I have already directed a short movie. That film is about missing and murdering women in Canada which is really a national issue. As I told you I was working in women´s shelter and I knew how the social system works and believe it plays a big part in disappearing of these girls because it doesn´t care enough. One of the girls from my community was on this list so I took an interest. My latest short film which I made three weeks ago is about mother-daughter relationship and some mental health issues, it takes place in reservation but it´s not about native people it is set in native context.
So do you take it as a mission to make films and point finger at something connected with Indian history or you would make anything from comedy to commercial trash?
I feel I will act in anything whether is native or not but I always want to bring my own perspective to where I come from. Even if it´s not about native it always influenced my life.
Your are 23 and your filming portfolio isn´t that big so was it difficult for you to get funding for your films?
For my first film I was able to raise fund from kickstart and because it was successful I was able to apply for fund for my next movie through the grant.
Do you think you would get more work had you moved to LA or you would be one of very many so your chances in Toronto are better?
I may go to LA one day but right now there is big acting community in Toronto, which is called Hollywood North where they make lots of films so right now it seems like good place for me to be. I don´t know if I move to LA or Vancouver it´s up in the air, depends where the work is.
Do you think you would be able to film the movies you told us about also in LA? Americans are always after the money so would this interest them?
I don´t know but there is a lots of indie stuff being shot there and there is more commercial stuff in LA but it doesn´t mean that I can´t travel back and forth.
Photo: Imdb.com, Eva Csölleova