Great North Cinema

Museum of Modern Art Hosts a Week of Canadian Independent Film

Noam Gonick’s “Stryker,” the Cracker Jack toy in the 2005 “Canadian Front: New Films” series at the Museum of Modern Art, is a tourist with an agenda—it wants to remake the popular image of indigenous North American people. Gonick’s acclaimed debut feature “Hey, Happy!” could have easily catapulted his ambition into an expensive, star-laden film project. Instead, he focused on a modestly scaled, yet arguably more ambitious film, selected to represent Canadian cinema in last year’s Venice Film Festival—a distinction all the more noteworthy for the film’s resolute iconoclasm.

Set in Winnipeg, home to Canada’s fastest-growing aboriginal population, “Stryker” envisions the city’s North End as a desiccated exurbia. A racial gang war rages between the Asian Bomb Squad, an assortment of preening, buffed Filipinos captained by the neurotic mixed-blood Omar and their arch-foes the Indian Posse, fronted by the volcanic Mama Ceece. A stone cold gangsta and swaggering dyke Casanova, Mama Ceece has just gotten back from prison and is hell-bent on retaking her share of the narcotics and sex trade. Into this enjoyably lurid scenario stumbles a 14-year-old Indian boy known only as Stryker.

“Stryker” is a highlight among an eight-day festival of new, independent Canadian films screening at MoMA through March 23.

We also review two other selections from the festival. Ruba Nadda’s “Sabah,” is named after its lead character, a 40-year-old Arab woman raised in a conservative, close-knit family who is still single but rejects the prospect of an arranged marriage. When she meets a Christian man, Sabah keeps their relationship a secret, but gradually discovers that other members of her family have secrets of their own.

Caroline Martel’s “The Phantom Of The Operator” appears in concept as a straightforward documentary like Connie Field’s classic “The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter.” Martel has a great deal more imagination, though. She’s conceived this film as science fiction, narrated by “the ghost of invisible women workers without whom the 20th century would not have been the same.”