'Just leave?' Fire Song challenges flip advice to First Nations youth

Director Adam Garnet Jones reflects on what the Canadian community at large still doesn't understand about life on the reserve.
Filmmaker Adam Garnet Jones discusses his timely debut feature, Fire Song, which follows a young Indigenous man as he contemplates leaving his reserve. (Adam Garnet Jones/Big Soul Productions Inc. )

"Why don't they just leave?" It's a common reaction to headlines about indigenous communities in crisis — like Attawapiskat, where the suicide rate prompted a state of emergency. 

Director Adam Garnet Jones says that advice is "shameful and offensive," particularly given the lessons of history. 

"It's important to think and remember that this crisis has been going on for decades ... the same questions keep getting asked over and over again," he tells Shad. "Eventually the media cycle moves on and the community is left the way it was."

If news stories haven't illuminated the roots of the problem, Garnet Jones hopes his timely debut feature, Fire Song, might.

The film follows a young indigenous man who is torn between leaving his reserve following his sister's suicide, or staying to try and make change. The academically gifted young man sees a path forward through school, and the chance to be openly two-spirited — but also wrestles with the pleas of his loved ones to stay.

"It's not a perspective that's often seen or heard," says Garnet Jones. "The answer isn't just for people to leave their communities ... you have to really think about what it means when the best and brightest of a community leave, generation after generation." 

WEB EXTRA | "People kill themselves all the time. No one cares until they're dead." Watch the trailer for Fire Song below.