The movie Red River (Les amants de Rivière-Rouge) is a French film directed by Yves Boisset, with Christophe Malavoy in the lead role of Monge and Eric Schweig in the secondary role of Napoleon. The film was acclaimed in Europe when it was released in 1996.
The adventurer Monge and his Métis friend Napoleon stop at Red River to sell their horses. Captivated by a farm girl, Hannah (Claudia Koll), Monge decided to settle there. Napoleon did not understand that the love of a woman can compromise their friendship. A violent fight broke out, and Napoleon left alone to the mountains. But years later, Napoleon returns to Red River and Hannah falls in love with him. The young woman being pregnant, Hannah and Napoleon run away. Furious, Monge goes in search of Hannah and Napoleon throughout the Rocky Mountains. When he finally finds them after many months, a surprise was awaiting for him…
This romantic story, shot in the same landscape as the movie Legends of the Fall, has several timeouts (the length of the film is 3 hours) and the chemistry between the actors seem difficult sometimes, probably because during the shooting, some declaim their lines in English and others in French. There are however some exciting scenes, like the one where Eric Schweig is fighting against a bear, the famous «Bart the Bear» (an Alaskan Kodiak bear appearing in several films).
Eric’s interpretation of Napoleon is honest, although he revealed in an interview for Mohican Press he did not really likes this movie, especially the scene where Napoleon is killed by Monge, adding that “it’s the most horrible death scene that I’ve ever done.” During the shooting of the film in 1996, Eric Schweig still sported his characteristic long hair and, despite overweight, was still as much photogenic on screen.
Between his two films released in 1996 (Red River and Dead Man’s Walk) and his wonderful interpretation of Pike Dexter in the film Big Eden in 2000, Eric Schweig experienced the longest break in his film career (4 years).
Director: Yves Boisset
Writer: Michel Leviant
Stars: Christophe Malavoy, Eric Schweig, Claudia Koll
Blackstone is one of those series you may have missed or dismissed. It faces challenges getting audience attention: Canadian, airs on APTN, and set on a First Nations reserve. Blackstone turns its camera on a community and shows it, warts and all. There are no “noble but tragic Indians” here — just the tragedy.
Blackstone could be any rural town in Canada, laden down with high-employment and its associated poverty problems. If you grew up, or even just spent time, in outport Newfoundland, a mining town after the company left, or any other similar location, Blackstone is going to have a familiar feel. As will the characters, from the down-and-outs to the where’re-they-getting-all-that-money? Nearly every aspect of Blackstone is familiar like that. Because Blackstone is not about Aboriginal people. It’s about people. Human beings in desperate, often tragic, but real, life.
Blackstone is unabashedly First Nations, don’t misunderstand me. And you will learn about the issues, same as with those other shows, because Blackstone doesn’t shy away from them either. It tears off the bandages, picks off the scab, and shows you the wound. You see the despair behind the substance abuse, and the results of it. You learn enough about residential schools to see how their impact is still being felt, how the program destroyed lives and communities. You get some history of land claims and how the government treats First Nations. There’s water problems, housing issues, government audits, conniving oil companies. You’ll learn some Cree, even. Blackstone doesn’t lecture though. It neither excuses nor condemns, it simply presents. It gives you just enough of a look at the reality of reserve-life to send you googling for more détails.
Above all, Blackstone is simply fantastic television: top notch ensemble acting, excellent direction, and riveting storylines. It’s gritty and gripping. Blackstone deserves a place alongside all those specialty channel dramas: The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, and The Killing. It is not just good Canadian television — it is excellent TV period. Unfortunately, it was announced on Monday that this will be the fifth and final season for Blackstone although the door is still open for perhaps a movie, or maybe something else. The new season starts on Nov. 3, which means you have plenty of time to watch the first four seasons. And the great news? You can see them all free online at APTN.
Excerpts from the article by Jeff Rose-Martland | HUFFINGTON POST
Throughout his career, Eric Schweig was involved in various community organizations. In 2014, he participated in the “2014 Annual Dude’s Health Fair” in Vancouver (Canada), organized by The DUDES club.
The “DUDES Club” provides events and activities that focus on the spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of wellness in men residing on the Downtown Eastside (Vancouver). It focuses on connecting men with health care professionals and other support services, as well as instilling a sense of solidarity and empowerment within the community.
The DUDES’ Club is committed to carrying out its stated objectives in an inclusive, non-judgmental and holistic way. Underlying the three main objectives is an ongoing emphasis on the importance of respect, brotherhood, equity and spirituality in helping men feel more complete.
The DUDES’ Club is committed to dialogue, collaboration and teamwork in all what they do. It recognizes that trauma, addiction, poverty, social marginalization and chronic health issues affect many of the native men and it works to address the structural factors that have a destructive impact on the overall health of men in the community.
Health topic discussions are driven primarily through peer-support facilitated by Elders, guest speakers, physicians, psychologists and street nurses. Moreover, gatherings are accompanied with hot meals, activities and haircuts organized by the Dudes’, building a sense of brotherhood, solidarity and spirituality.
A high stakes mystery/thriller starring Blackstone’s Eric Schweig, INHERITANCE is an interactive “Pick Your Path” web series (ie Choose-Your-Own-Adventure) inspired by a legend of hidden Native treasure. Currently pitching for financing, the series would be a blend between a live-action narrative series like “24” and a video game like “The Walking Dead: TellTales”, and at the end of every 2-3 minute episode YOU must decide what to do next. The web of possible scenarios quickly becomes an allegory that cuts to the heart of current land claim issues and reconciliation for unceded First Nations territory. Who’s right, who’s wrong, and who is deserving of what. Violence, arbitration, or concession – you decide. Only one thing is certain: no one decides what they inherit.
In the early 1990s, at a time when he reach fame, Eric Schweig was finaly able to track down his birth mother. The history of this dramatic quest was told in the Inuvik Drum and Cariboo Observer newspapers.
“The name given to him at birth was Ray Thrasher. But at 6 months, he was adopted by a German father and French mother. His father was in the Navy and they moved from Inuvik to Bermuda. Schweig said his adoptive grandmother told him who his birth mother was. Than one day in Vancouver […] he met Willie Thrasher on the street. The two got talking and before long Schweig realized he must be related to Thrasher.” Inuvik Drum, 1993.
Following this amazing discovery, Willie Thrasher called his sister Agnes to say he had found her son she had left for adoption about twenty years earlier. An appointment was arranged and Eric Schweig went to Quesnels (British-Columbia) to meet Agnes. If the meeting was warm, Agnes had doubts from the beginning about her affiliation with Eric Schweig. After verifying with the adoption agency, it was indeed found that the famous actor was not the son of Agnes, but the son of her sister Margaret, who lived in Yellowknife. We can imagine the frustration that may have felt Eric Schweig while receiving this information, as he was emotionally and psychologically prepared to recognize Agnes as his biological mother.
“When she told Schweig about the mixup, he didn’t take it well. He got pretty upset. He had been looking for his mother for so long and he wasn’t very happy about not having found her. Schweig made plans to travel up north to Yellowknife to finally make the connection. Then, two days after he got the news, his mother, Margaret Thrasher, died of a massive heart attack in Yellowknife.” Cariboo Observer, October 13th 1993.
« Schweig said he had a strange feeling that he might never meet his mother after a dream he had when he was 18. In the dream he was walking towards a house where he could see a woman that he knew was his mother, but when he was 5 feet from the open door it slammed shut. “I was crying when I woke up…it was so vivid”, Schweig said. » (ID)
If this sad turn of events is surprising, it is even more astonishing to discover that a book about Margaret Thrasher (and other northerners) was published in 1989 by the Toronto publishers James Lorimer & Company. Written by Douglas Holmes, this book compiles 24 profiles of people in the Northwest Territories, including one about Margaret Thrasher, titled “Town Drunk”. It is not a pretty story, since “Holmes detailed the sad alcohol-sodden life she had, her runnins with the law, her binges, her poverty.” (CO) But people had a lot of respect for her because she encouraged the homeless population to get involved in the community by helping keep the downtown area nice. “Margaret Thrasher ran also for mayor in the City of Yellowknife and was known for her kind heart and for helping homeless people.” (CO)
Margaret Thrasher was a big woman, with a red face and a loud voice. Her Metis husband was a small and timid man who usually walked a few steps behind her. They both lived in an old one-room shack in Yellowknife. They did not remembered exactly when they were married, but it was sometime in the 1970s.
Margaret was born in 1947. Thrasher’s mother, an Inuk from Alaska, and her father, a Portuguese fisherman and whaler, raised their family in the communities of Aklavik and Inuvik. Thrasher went to catholic mission schools there and learned to sketch and paint, like her famous sister, the artist Mona Thrasher. As a teenager and in the 1960s, she lived in Edmonton before returning north sometime in the early 1970s.
See also this poem about Margaret Thrasher by Indio Saravanja.
It Waits is a 2005 American horror film starring Cerina Vincent. The film is about a female forest ranger, Danielle St. Claire,who encounters a terrible creature who has been killing people in the remote national forest where she works. When the creature attacks her isolated ranger station and kills her forest ranger boyfriend, she goes after the creature.
In this horror film, Eric Schweig plays a small supporting role. He appears only 5 minutes, 1 hour after the start of the film, and speaks throughout these 5 minutes. His character, Joseph Riverwind, a university professor in archeology “wearing Ralph Lauren”, is also looking for the creature, which his Aboriginal students have unfortunately released at the beginning of the film by blowing up the entrance to a cave. Riverwind gives valuable information to Danielle about this demon and the shamans who have accidentally summoned it from another world hundreds of years ago and then locked in this cave.
A few hours later, we find the unfortunate professor Riverwind impaled by the creature on a wooden branch in the middle of the road. The creature in the film is modeled after the Wakinyan or thunderbird that appears in myths from the Dakota people of North America., It Waits was filmed in November 2004 on location in the Watershed area about 25 miles east of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada.
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Written by Richard Christian Matheson, Thomas E. Szollosi, and Stephen J. Cannell
Stars: Cerina Vincent, Dominic Zamprogna, Greg Kean, Eric Schweig.
Born Ray Dean Thrasher, adopted at the age of six months by a German / French family, Eric Schweig has mentioned in some occasions what were his ties with his biological Inuit family. He mainly talked about his mother, Margaret Thrasher, and about his “Inuit, Portuguese and German” roots in an interview for Windspeaker in 2003. The “Portuguese” part of these statements has intrigued me, so, I did some research to clarify this point.
The archives of “Eric Schweig Rose and Joni’s Fan Site” mention that the Inuit painter Mona Thrasher is Schweig’s aunt. It is known that the paternal grandfather of painters Mona and Agnes Thrasher was indeed a Portuguese whaler. Margaret Thrasher and Eric Schweig could therefore have the same ancestor as Mona and Agnes Thrasher.
Also, an article in Inuvik Drum in 1993 mentions a meeting between Schweig and Agnes Thrasher: “Than one day in Vancouver, where he now lives, he met Willie Thrasher on the street. The two got talking and before long Schweig realized he must be related to Thrasher. He said Thrasher hooked him up with his Aunt Agnes in Williams Lake, B.C. in the hopes of finding his [biological] mother. But three days later, his birth mother died and he was too late“. It seems here that Agnes knew Margaret well enough to help Schweig find her. Were they sisters? Cousins? Mona, Agnes and Margaret Thrasher all lived in Inuvik and Yellowknife. Agnes Thrasher has also lived in British Columbia. The filiation between Eric Schweig the artist, and Mona Thrasher the artist, seems then perfectly plausible. So, here is a brief description of this famous member of Ray Dean Thrasher’s family.
Mona Thrasher is a Northern Canada Artist, well known throughout Canada’s Northwest Territories. She was born on February 24th, 1942, in a bush camp in the Mackenzie Delta between Aklavik and present day Inuvik. At 13, a hunting accident left her partially deaf and mute. A shotgun blast went off near her head and since then she has not been able to hear or speak. But she was always a bright spirit and very smart.
Her father’s name was Billy Thrasher, and he worked a trapline. He was the son of a Portuguese whaler, who came to the Arctic during the last century. He used to sketch on a piece of paper, just drawing here and there. He drew with pencil and he used to keep pencils until they turned to nothing, right to the end. Her mother, Alice, was an Alaskan Inuit and Billy’s second wife.
At the age of 10, Mona Thrasher left her family’s log cabin to attend the Aklavik Roman Catholic Mission School, where she remained until the age of 17, returning home only during the months of July and August. After the hunting accident, she continued at the Mission School, communicating through written English.
Mona Thrasher began taking art classes in her early teens and was encouraged to pursue her artistic interests by Sister Leduc and by such instructors as Father Adam, Bishop Dennis Croteau and Bern Will Brown. The same year her father died, when she was 18 in 1960, Father Adam invited her to paint the Stations of the Cross in the newly constructed Igloo Church in Inuvik. Since that time, she painted more than 800 oils and pastels.
Mona wrote “I enjoy painting different scenes of the Eskimo life of my forefathers. Igloos are a things of the past, dogteams are on the way out, seal hunting has almost become a sport with people, but the very fact that I paint those scenes reminds people that not so long ago, men lived that way and survived amidst hardship and found happiness in a climate whose harshness is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
You will notice that my basic colors are whites and blue because that is the way my country appears to me. It is made of blue sky and blue water. Even the snow which covers the ground for 9 months out of 12 has a bluish tint on account of the semi darkness.” Mona Thrasher moved to Yellowknife in 1990 and stayed there for the rest of her life. She died April 1st, 2013.
Deaf Culture Centre, The Visual Arts, p. 338.
Joanne Carolyn McNeal, Western Arctic Women Artists’ Perspectives on Education and Art, University of British Columbia, June 1997, pp. 271-276
“Cluster F-Bomb: Eric Schweig is known for his coarse language and dropping a few of these while on set when he can’t get his lines right. Or in every day conversation for that matter. Curse Cut Short: Eric Schweig does this to himself when he is being interviewed and knows he has to watch his language. Sir Swears-a-Lot: Again Eric Schweig is notorious for his foul language. ” TvTropes
“That’s when you really start to appreciate bowls of soup – getting a bowl of soup during the day, a hot bowl of soup, when I was homeless in Toronto, where it’s 40 below zero in the winter time. You get a bowl of soup, that’s like God.”
(Eric Schweig, A Year of Soup, 2013)
In this period film, made in 1995 by Martin Davidson, Eric Schweig plays the role of a young Shawnee Indian chief named Wildcat. He co-starred with actress Sheryl Lee, who plays the role of the heroine, Mary Ingles, a true character in the American History.
The story takes place in the 18th century in the United States and is based on the novel by James Alexander Thom. The film begins by showing Will Ingles farm in the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and his harmonious family life with his beloved wife, the beautiful Irish Mary, along with her step- mother, Mary’s younger brother and sister and his son Thomas. Mary is several months pregnant and one morning, she feels a strange premonition. A few hours later, the farm is attacked by Shawnee Indians, while Will and Mary’s brother went away to work on their land.
The Shawnees capture Mary, her son and her younger sister. During the long walk through the forest to the village of the Shawnees along the Ohio River, Mary feels that her husband is still alive and will starts looking for her. This thought gives her an unshakable courage to face the situation. Wildcat then noticed not only the beauty of Mary, but also her strength and determination to survive. When Mary stumbled on a rock, Wildcat rushes to help her. Their eyes meet and we see the obvious attraction of the young Indian chief for the beautiful Irish woman. Meanwhile, Will Ingles brings men to go in search for the captives.
While the group of Shawnees and prisoners continue their journey in the forest, Wildcat shows real concern for Mary, although he remains unforgiving for any sign of weakness on the part of his prisoners. So, when she has just given birth to her daughter at the foot of a grove of trees, he invites Mary to stand up and continue walking. Gathering her strength and still shaky, Mary obeyed, knowing that the only way to survive her captors is to show her strength. Conquered by Mary and her courage, Wildcat suddenly begins a humorous interlude, imitating a Shawnee mother during childbirth. This amazing scene, which clashes somewhat with the rest of the film, shows Eric Schweig perfectly comfortable with comedy and mime.
When the group arrives at the village of the Shawnees, Mary and her sister are well received by Wildcat’s mother. Some French settlers crossing the village, including a trader named Laplante, confirms to Mary that this gesture is a clear mark of the high esteem in which Wildcat carries her. Then Laplante hires Mary in his shop to make clothes, while his young Indian wife takes care of Mary’s baby. Although she adapts to the situation and welcomes with gratitude expressions of interest from the young Indian chief, Mary confirms to her younger sister, who now doubts the love of Mary for her husband, that she hates their captors and plays their game just to survive, with the aim of one day return home. Thus, when Wildcat offers her to marry him and raise her son as his own, she reminds her seductive captor that her son already has a father. In revenge for this refusal, Wildcat sells Mary and some other captives to the French settlers, keeping the son of Mary with him.
For the second part of the film, we do not see Eric Schweig again on the screen, except for the final scene. This second part shows the incredible journey of Mary, who fled into the forest with an old German woman, also sold to the French settlers by Wildcat. Equipped with only an ax and a blanket and following the river, the two women remake the perilous journey back to the farm of Mary. They are found in extremis by English settlers, half dead from hunger and cold. Mary and Will are finally reunited, their love still alive and intact.
In the final scene, a few months later, we see Wildcat arriving at the Ingles farm with Mary’s two children. He has brought them back safely to greet her incredible courage.
This film made for television by Hallmark Home Entertainment was shot almost entirely outdoors (Sapphire, North Carolina). Although it does not have the resources of a large production (the costumes are fairly rudimentary), the actors are well directed. Lee and Schweig show a strong bond on the screen, especially in the famous scene where Mary takes Wildcat’s measures to make him a coat, while he offers to become her companion.
The script, the shooting and the music of “Follow the River” sometimes refers to the movie “The Last of the Mohicans” in which Schweig played three years earlier. “Follow the River” is an epic of one woman’s grit, loyalty and determination and an “inspirational” saga of a pioneer woman.
Director: Martin Davidson
Writer: Jennifer Miller
Stars: Sheryl Lee, Ellen Burstyn, Eric Schweig, Tim Guinee, Renée O’Connor, Tyler Noyes, Tony Amendola.
According to the Facebook page of Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), Eric Schweig ended his community involvement with them. «The entire RaY family would like to say, “Thanks and best of luck!” to our dear friend Eric. It was great having you around to provided leadership and mentorship to so many of our youth. We want to wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.»
“Tom and Huck” is a Walt Disney film realized in 1995 by Peter Hewitt. Based on the book by Mark Twain, it tells the story of a particularly mischievous boy, Tom Sawyer (Jonathan Taylor Thomas). Tom witnesses a murder by the deadly Injun Joe (Eric Schweig). Tom becomes friends with Huckleberry Finn (Brad Renfro), a boy with no future and no family. Tom has to choose between honoring a friendship or honoring an oath because the town alcoholic is accused of the murder. Tom and Huck go through several adventures trying to retrieve evidence.
The film opens with Injun Joe accepting a job from Doctor Robinson (William Newman). It is to dig a corpse to retrieve a map leading to a treasure. We see immediately that we better not mess with Injun Joe, because he does not hesitate to threaten his client to require more money to do the dirty work.
Eric Schweig offers a high level of performance to interpret this ugly character, so much so that at times he even gets a little too scary for a Disney movie for children. I’m especially thinking of the murder scene of Dr. Robinson, where Injun Joe runs with such a fury that it seems kind of offset from the rest of the film. If Tom Sawyer had nightmares about Injun Joe, young viewers of the film may undoubtedly have nightmares about him too.
The makeup team has also done a great job to make one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world (People magazine) in a particularly dirty, ugly and nasty character, which foreshadows the future Pesh-Chidin in “The Missing” (2003). In 1995, Schweig is also overweight and this adds to his imposing stature. With a particularly disgusting denture, Schweig changes his voice to refine the transformation.
After the murder of Dr. Robinson, Injun Joe did not hesitate to accuse an innocent man in his place and goes in search of the witness to the crime, Tom Sawyer, while he recovers the famous treasure: a chest full of gold coins. The confrontation between Injun Joe and Tom Sawyer is one of the best scenes of Eric Schweig on the screen. The intensity of his performance and the fury in his eyes are simply amazing.
Even though this is a movie aimed at a young audience, “Tom and Huck” is in my opinion one of the best movies of Eric Schweig with “Big Eden.”
Director: Peter Hewitt
Stars: Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Brad Renfro, Eric Schweig.
Kissed by Lightning is a remarkable tale of spiritual awakening, sets in deepest winter in the woodlands of Canada. The film is multi-dimensional and multi-layered; it’s a love story symbolically based on the 14th Century Iroquois legend of Peacemaker and Hiawatha.
Mavis Dogblood (Kateri Walker) is a heart-broken Mohawk painter who keeps the memory of her dead husband, Jessie Lightning (Michael Greyeyes), alive in her paintings, through the recreation of the stories he would tell her. She struggles to move on, but when an upcoming art exhibition in New York requires Mavis to embark on a road trip, she finds herself faced with the difficult task of letting go.
Mavis has a potential lover waiting for her to absolve her grief: her good friend Solomon «Bug» King (Eric Schweig). The new man in her life patiently waits for her to resolve her emotional struggle. He goes with Mavis to help deliver the paintings in New York for her solo exhibition. During the trip, they meet many characters who help Mavis starts chipping away at her wall of grief.
In the role of Solomon King, Eric Schweig offers an excellent performance as an actor. He appears about 10 minutes after the beginning of the film. His character is a musician (like Jessie) with a quiet and loving temperament. Due to an accident just before leaving for New York, Solomon must take painkillers that make him extremely drowsy. There are several scenes, including a very funny one at the U.S. Customs, where Eric Schweig sleeps almost everywhere. But in one of his lucid moments during the trip, Solomon declares his love to Mavis while exposing all his fragility.
Eric Schweig’s interpretation of Solomon in the film consists of a happy mix of funny facial expressions, as he often does in the show Arbor Live, a retained intensity like his Pike Dexter in Big Eden, and a very sweet attitude like Samuel in Mr. Barrington. In this film, we also have the privilege of hearing Eric Schweig sing! A pleasant surprise.
Solomon and Mavis are beings full of goodness who share a great tenderness for one another. But at the first appearance of Eric Schweig in the film, we understand that Solomon is madly in love with Mavis. Solomon, however, keeps a respectful silence about his feelings towards his friend in mourning. After Solomon’s accident, Mavis takes care of him and they both sleep together as brother and sister in the sofa bed of her small studio (we understand that this situation would not be so easy for Solomon if he was not under the influence of strong painkillers!). The two protagonists have vivid dreams and visions related to Iroquois legends, and perceive the ghosts of their ancestors. In one of the visions of Mavis, Solomon and Jessie even become Peacemaker and Hiawatha.
During the trip to New York, Mavis and Solomon also visit the shrine of Kateri Tekakwitha to deliver prayers for Jessie’s ex-wife. She had also asked them to stop at Jessie’s mother’s home to give her a picture of her grandson, whom she has not seen in many years. Mavis was reluctant to do this since she had never met her mother-in-law, but Solomon managed to convince her. Mavis and Solomon find the home of Jessie’s mother, Josephine (Monique Mojica). Mavis and Josephine bond almost immediately and Mavis confides in her mother-in-law about the struggles she has been having since Jessie’s death. Josephine helps Mavis see that she needs to let go of her grief and allow Solomon more fully into her life.
Finally, in one of her visions, Mavis finally said goodbye to Jessie. When Solomon found her in tears, she opens her heart to him, takes him in her arms and they kiss lovingly. They go hand in hand at the opening reception of Mavis exhibition. We see among visitors the ghosts of Iroquois ancestors contemplating her paintings with satisfaction. Mavis is at last happy and at peace.
In 1998 Shelley Niro began the script for “Kissed by Lightning.” From start to production it took 11 years for the movie to be finished and was well worth the wait. The story is beautiful with stunning visuals. The tone is quirky and humorous with music that is hauntingly beautiful and an important part of the film experience. Shelley Niro’s paintings, the 12 portrait series of the Peacemaker’s Journey, are also a wonderful addition to the movie. The characters have depth and the viewer can identify with them.
Director: Shelly Niro
Writer: Ken Chubb
Stars: Kateri Walker, Eric Schweig, Michael Greyeyes, Rachelle White Wind Arbez, Wesley French, Monique Mojica, Sean Baek.
In September 1995, members of the Stoney Point Native community gathered in Ontario’s Ipperwash Provincial Park to protest a long-standing ancestral burial ground claim. In the end, protester Slippery George was almost beaten to death while Dudley George was shot dead by Ontario Provincial Police officer Kenneth Deane.
One Dead Indian is a gripping and timely television drama about this story, one of the most politically-charged events in Canadian history, followed by 10-year campaign to seek justice for the death of native protester Dudley George. The tragic story, based on Peter Edwards’ book One Dead Indian: The Premier, The Police and the Ipperwash Crisis, focuses on the Ipperwash Crisis, the tragic 1995 incident whose aftermath reverberated from Dudley George’s family and community to the halls of Queen’s Park. The movie, filmed in an area near Montreal in Quebec, stars Dakota House as Dudley George and Eric Schweig as Dudley’s brother Sam.
The real Sam George drove to Montreal in a motor home from Stoney Point (near Sarnia, Ontario) with honourary family member attorney Murray Klippenstein and ten other members from the George family, including three grandchildren. The vehicle broke down near Cornwall but that didn’t stop them from getting to set, after a quick repair job at a nearby mechanic’s shop. They were determined to see at least part of the making of One Dead Indian, a fictionalized version of the reality they’ve been living with for the past ten years. Sam George said he believes the film will touch people all over Canada, and that: “they would want to know this story”.
When the “two Sams” met, the real Sam George and Eric Schweig, who plays him, emotions ran high. The real Murray Klippenstein engaged in long talks with the actor who plays him, Stewart Bick; and Sam’s grandsons Cody George, Jerad Storr and Cameron George were all smiles when they met Dakota House, the actor who plays their uncle, the deceased hero Dudley George. Actor and activist Gary Farmer (who plays Judas George) also greeted Dudley and Sam’s brother, Sam’s wife Veronica George, his daughter Tammy Jackson and his son Don George. A great admirer of Sam George, Gabrielle Miller was honoured to have her picture taken alone with him for her own personal photo album. The energy on set was electric that day.
The interpretation of Eric Schweig in the role of Sam George is natural, true and moving. I must say that all the actors deliver a great performance in this film. The scenes in the court of justice are punctuated by flashbacks of what happened a year earlier, and by personal memories of Sam about his brother Dudley. Dudley’s death is particularly shocking, especially when arriving at the hospital by car, where members of his family – who are trying to save him by calling for help – were instead arrested and handcuffed by police, while Dudley is unconscious in a pool of blood on the back seat. Another touching scene of the film is delivered by Eric Schweig, while Sam performed in the hospital a tender purification ritual on the body of his brother Dudley.
Although the film denounces the slippage in police intervention at Ipperwash and the double standards justice, it does not fall into the Manichean stereotypes. It covers in relevant way the tensions between the First Nations and the Canadian authorities about land claims.
Director: Tim Southam
Writer: Hugh Graham, Andrew Wreggitt
Stars: Dakota House, Eric Schweig, Pamela Matthews, Bruce Ramsey, Stepen McHattie, Gary Farmer, Glen Gould, Gordon Tootoosis, Jennifer Podemski.
Eric Schweig: Yep!
(Mohican Press, 1998)
“My sanity depends on my ability to be nomadic. So, wherever I set up shop, whether it’s Montreal, Toronto or Los Angeles, I’ll get there, find a place to live and look around on the Internet for outreach places. And I’ll phone them and ask them if they need volunteers. Usually, the first person that phones back, I’ll go do volunteer work for them.”
(Eric Schweig, c 2009-2010)
Several years ago, in the days when I was still using the internet social network Myspace, I stumbled upon the personal page of Eric Schweig. There he shared regularly his thoughts and strong opinions with his Myspace friends (over 5000, if my memory is correct), as well as photographs of his activities and interests (This page has been closed since).
What I was most surprised to discover when I found this Myspace page, was the background image chosen by Schweig: a work of the Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger representing the predatory beast Alien, the most famous of Giger’s creations. It seems like Schweig have seen “Alien” (1979), the science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott, in 9th or 10th grade during the Christmas holidays, and he would have loved very much the highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature born from the hands of Giger.
H. R. Giger most distinctive stylistic innovation as an artist is that of a representation of human bodies and machines in a cold, interconnected relationship, he described as “biomechanical”. Giger suffers from night terrors and his paintings are all to some extent inspired by his experiences with that particular sleep disorder. He studied interior and industrial design at the School of Commercial Art in Zurich (from 1962 to 1965) and made his first paintings as a means of art therapy.
Giger made several conceptual paintings of the adult Alien before crafting the final version for the film. He sculpted the creature’s body using plasticine, incorporating pieces such as vertebrae from snakes and cooling tubes from a Rolls-Royce. His design for Alien earned him an Oscar in 1980. Alien has been referred to as “one of the most iconic movie monsters in film history”. The film has continued to receive critical praise over the years, particularly for its realism and unique environment. Critics have also analyzed Alien‘s strong Freudian sexual overtones. On one level it’s about parasitism and disease, on another level the Alien’s phallic head and method of killing create a strong sexual imagery. That did not stop Eric Schweig to tattoo a representation of Alien on his right arm, in addition to the beautiful vampire/demon woman on his left arm (he also has a tattoo on the back, a face of a demon). Sources about Alien and Giger : Wikipedia.
I am skeptical by nature, but I keep an open mind. This is not because something is unlikely that it is impossible. Astrology? Although its relevance seems very unlikely, it is perhaps not impossible. Then, as we have entered lately the sign of Gemini, and since Eric Schweig was born under this sign of the zodiac (June 19), why not investigate?
I have four very good friends for more than twenty years, and two of them are Gemini. Although they are very different personalities, they have rather striking common traits, which I found in the descriptions below. Perhaps these descriptions of Gemini will help us learn more about the famous Inuit actor… or not ;-)
“Geminis are said to have a dual nature, as symbolized by twins. This duality also represents exchange and interaction. Key traits of Gemini are the following: Communication, Socialization and Adaptability. The sign of Gemini is thought to be very adaptable and flexible, sometimes to the point of “being” two different personalities.
People who are born within 21 May – 20 June have this sign. Some famous Gemini celebrities: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Marilyn Monroe, Paul McCartney, Josephine Baker, Paul Gauguin, Sir Lawrence Oliver, John F. Kennedy, Johnny Depp, Anne Frank, Prince, Dean Martin, Naomi Campbell, Queen Victoria, Judy Garland, Bob Dylan, Boy George, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, M.C. Esher.
Have you ever heard of the phrase, two sides of the same coin? If yes, then it would come in handy while you attempt to understand a Gemini guy, for guys born under this zodiac sign have dual and sometimes even multiple personalities to them. They have a mystic quality to their being which is difficult to trace from far. Only when you get close to a Gemini would you understand his different traits and characteristics. Gemini men love to make friends and get well with almost everyone. But they have a tendency of moving over old friends to make newer ones. This is due to their constant need for discovering new and latest things. ” The Famous People
“Gemini’s zodiac symbol is the twins, but maybe a butterfly would be more appropriate. Until they are done living, at least, both Gemini and this beautifully winged insect are impossible to pin down. Gemini gets a thrill out of meeting new people, gathering information about them, and spreading it around. Yes, it’s true this sign has a reputation for being a bit of a two-timer, because Gemini is the very embodiment of duality.
Gemini is very strong, and to some extent superficial about emotions. It’s not that he isn’t feeling it: Gemini people have the ability to intellectualize feelings, so they’re able to detach themselves and be “in control” of emotions much more readily than the average person. There’s a real heart there, nonetheless, and you’ll see it when you have times of trouble. Gemini will step right in and try to turn your frown upside down until you’re smiling again.” Dr Laura Berman
“Gemini, the sign of the Twins, is dual-natured, elusive, complex and contradictory. On the one hand it produces the virtue of versatility, and on the other the vices of two-facedness and flightiness. The sign is linked with Mercury, the planet of childhood and youth, and its subjects tend to have the graces and faults of the young. Like children they are lively, and happy, if circumstances are right for them, or egocentric, imaginative and restless. They take up new activities enthusiastically but lack application, constantly needing new interests, flitting from project to project as apparently purposelessly as a butterfly dancing from flower to flower.
Their good qualities are attractive and come easily to them. They are affectionate, courteous, kind, generous, and thoughtful towards the poor and suffering – provided none of the activities resulting from expressing these traits interferes too greatly with their own lives and comforts.”Astrology Online
“If you’re born between the 13th and the 21st of June, the influence of Aquarius and the unpredictable planet Uranus has a sway over your life and your temperament. You are spontaneous in many areas of your life and like to explore the unknown. Your life will swing from the positive to the negative so you must be prepared for some turbulent times in your life. At least you’ll never be bored with the challenges that are presented to you, and as you grow older and develop more wisdom, you’re likely to be regarded as someone with extraordinary knowledge and a capacity to help those around you. Your path is one of compassion and humanitarianism. “ Astrology.com.au
“A Gemini male has a dual nature, which can get extended to three-four different personalities too. His typical personality traits include friendliness, love for people and getting along with almost everyone. He can talk on any topic under the sun, is an excellent conversationalist and has a witty nature. More often than not, he becomes the life of a party.
Gemini men have a personal side, which they will never share with anyone, not even with their lover. However, his basic nature includes a sharing attitude, in case of money, knowledge, happiness and almost everything.
A Gemini guy loves an audience, whether it comprises of males or females. Don’t try to bind Gemini men too much and let them have their independence and freedom. In return, they will do the same for you. “ I Love India
“Gemini are extremely independent. They will not be pinned down by anyone or any rules. They need to experience the world on their own. Change and freedom are extremely important to Gemini, they will never let anyone dictate them, they are extremely independent and freedom is essential to their mental well being.
Gemini makes very interesting and exciting friends. They like to leave their mark on everyone they meet. They are very flighty and will disappear for a long time as they meet new friends and explore new places. But when they come back, they will have new thoughts, opinions and interesting things to share and ideas to teach. Life is very interesting and fun with a Gemini friend. They are very generous with their friends, they will spend lots of time with you and share everything with you. Even though Gemini is a social butterfly, they always need time for themselves and that should be respected.” Zodiac Signs
“Gemini people have a vivacious, restless and anxious nature. This is the sign of the Twins, and all born in it have two distinct and pronounced natures—one very low and one very high. There is only one thing for a Gemini person to do, and that is to first realize his dual nature and then go to work with a grim determination to kill the lower or base nature. It can be done, and when accomplished, the Gemini man or woman rises to the very highest success and happiness.
You will find you have two minds all the time in intense action; one says do this and the other says do that. You want to travel and you want to stay at home; you want to work like a demon, and you want to be as lazy and indolent as a drone. Always restless, always anxious and apprehensive, and yet at times very calm. This restless, nervous temperament is due to fear and doubt, and must be supplanted by courage and hope and faith. As a matter of fact, there is no person who can do more and achieve greater success than you can if you will only understand how favorably you are born and your great and wonderful forces of the unseen world which are always ready to help you, if you will only give these powers half a chance.
You can amass great wealth, have perfect health, and permanent happiness the very moment you begin to live in your higher nature. Worry, discontent, complaining and murmuring will keep you in darkness and misery.
Above all things be truthful and avoid making extravagant statements or narrating exploits in which you were the central figure; in plain English, don’t be an egotist. In India many of the great seers, sages, Yogis and adepts came out of this sign. The Gemini person is naturally very magnetic and has wonderful hypnotic and clairvoyant powers. Some of the greatest philosophers and prophets of the world were born in this sign.” The Hindu Book of Astrology
By Way of the Stars is an action/adventure television mini-series co-produced in 1992 by Sullivan Entertainment and German Beta-Taurus Kirch Group, that begins in 19th century Prussia, then travels through post-U.S. Civil War Charleston to the ‘Canadas’ and the West. Set in 1865, the story is about a thirteen-year-old boy from Prussia, named Lukas (Zachary Bennett), who moves to America to escape family problems and a dangerous enemy.
Along his journey he meets a young girl named Ursula (Gema Zamprogna) and the two children struggle to survive the difficult frontier lifestyle. The six-hour mini-series is based on a popular German children’s novel called “The Long Journey of Lukas B.”
There are many characters in this series, and Eric Schweig plays the role of one of them, Black Thunder, a Native American who comes to the rescue of the young Lukas a few times. He appears at the end of the fifth episode and remains on the screen until the end of the sixth episode. Other excellent actors I greatly appreciate have also a small role in By Way of the Stars: Gordon Tootoosis (Cree Chief), the wonderfull Tantoo Cardinal (Françoise) and Michelle St. John (White Feather).
In 1992, Eric Schweig is 25 and also participates in the filming of The Last of the Mohicans where he plays the role of Uncas, that made him famous. Fortunately, the character of Black Thunder allows him to experience his natural talent as an actor with more dialogues and interactions that the role of Uncas allowed him.
Black Thunder is a young warrior in full possession of his faculties, which clearly expresses his contempt for the White People, yet without letting his feelings blind him regarding the very special character of the young Lukas. Indeed this is thanks to the support of Black Thunder that Lukas finally finds his father after his long and perilous journey.
Series Directed by Allan King (6 episodes)
Stars: Zachary Bennett, Gema Zamprogna, Michael Mahonen, Tantoo Cardinal, Albert Miller, Eric Schweig, Gordon Tootoosis, Michelle St-John, Jan Rubes, Dominique Sanda and many more.
-2 Gemini Nominations – Best Direction in a Series (Allan King), Best Original Music Score for a Series, 1993
-Bronze Plaque Award – Columbus International Film Festival, 1993 (U.S.)
I do not like violence, or corruption, or abuse of power, or sexual exploitation of women. Unfortunately, the excellent TV series Blackstone is filled by them wall to wall, showing with lots of drama the darker side of a First Nations reserve. For that reason, I was unable to remain faithful to the show until the end of the second season. Blackstone season 3, which is going to be the most provocative yet, will be released in Fall 2013 on the Canadian television network APTN.
Intense, compelling and confrontational, Blackstone is an unmuted exploration of power, politics and relationships on the fictional Blackstone First Nation. This original TV series is unlike any other show on the air today. Entertaining and informative, Blackstone is a story of hope and reconciliation in its portrayal of Native people fighting for better lives – on and off the reserve. To date, Blackstone has won 20 awards and received 49 award nominations, including three nominations at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards.
Blackstone tackles very crudely current problems experienced on a reserve, with a cast of native actors perfectly talented and effective: Carmen Moore, Eric Schweig, Michelle Thrush, Nathaniel Arcand, Steven Cree Molison, Andrea Menard, Ray G. Thunderchild, Justin Rain, Ashley Callingbull, Tantoo Cardinal, Roseanne Supernault, Bernard Starlight, Georgina Lightning, Michelle Latimer, Garry Farmer. Eric Schweig plays the role of a villain, Andy Fraser, Chief of Blackstone. The Fraser family has controlled Blackstone for decades and Andy is the latest Chief in this legacy of nepotism and corruption. Savvy and manipulative, he extorts the members of the Nation and funnels reserve money into his own projects. When Chief Fraser isn’t able to charm a situation in his favor, he quickly turns to intimidation and threats.
The first Season of Blackstone won two Gemini Awards, and garnered two wins at the 2011 Leo Awards and three wins at the 2011 Alberta Film and Television Awards. Unfolding over nine one-hour episodes, the first Season presents Blackstone First Nation suffering disintegration by its own hand – the result of the corruption of its Chief and Council. From within the community, a new generation of leaders, with Leona Stoney (Carmen Moore) and Victor Merasty (Nathaniel Arcand), rise up and fight hard to create lasting and substantial change. If Andy Fraser loses for the first time his election in favor of Leona Stoney, he does not hesitate to use all villainous means at his disposal to regain power. Meanwhile, Leona’s sister, Gail (Michelle Thrush, who delivers a great performance in this role) fights against alcoholism and the mourning of his daughter Natalie (Roseanne Supernault. also excellent) who committed suicide.
If the second season of Blackstone were to be summarized in one sentence, it would be this: The stories could have been ripped right from real-life news headlines. Story lines in Season 2 include mismanagement of band funding, missing Aboriginal women, foster care, and toxic water on the reserve – all of which parallel real-life social issues facing many First Nations today. The second season of Blackstone has made a tremendous impact among television audiences with its intense, compelling and confrontational content. It has also generated significant acclaim among media from coast to coast.
The character played by Eric Schweig in Blackstone, Andy Fraser, shows a selfish, contradictory and dangerous mind. He cheats on his wife (Andrea Menard), he murders his mistress (Lee Tomaschefski), he corrupts democracy, he takes care of his father (Ray G. Thunderchild), which has diabetes, but at the same time he hates him, because he is constantly critical about his decisions and actions. This dysfunctional father-son relationship is at the heart of Andy’s behavior, which degenerates slowly into a kind of psychopath, haunted by the ghost of his deceased father. In fact, the spirits of the deads occur regularly in Blackstone, to confront the protagonists to their worst inner demons.
Eric Schweig gives a perfectly convincing interpretation of Andy Fraser, a negative leader that we love to hate. For this role, he was nominated for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series at the Leo Awards in 2011.
Much of the action of Blackstone is shot on hand-held cameras. Although this choice helps accentuate the nervous style of acting, it is unfortunately the main fault of the show. In fact, ALL scenes are filmed in hand-held camera with continuous zoom-in zoom-out, mostly unjustified. These random maneuvers come to dilute sometimes the intensity of the interpretation of the actors rather than magnify them. Despite this problem, since Blackstone series first hit the airwaves in January 2011, it has consistently ranked as one of APTN’s top-rated and most popular programs. Here is what some of them have to say about Blackstone:
“Addiction, foster care, missing women – dire subjects all, and all equally ignored in Canadian drama programming. Thankfully there is at least one homemade drama that’s willing to tackle the issues facing aboriginal Canadians, as Blackstone returns for its second season.” – National Post.
“Blackstone is a portrayal of struggle — the struggle between life and the reality of circumstance. The drama, set upon the fictional Blackstone Nation, is particularly relevant in a time when images of the Attawapiskat and Hobbema reserves are difficult to escape.” – Vancouver Observer
“Blackstone is an important and timely series that tackles real-life issues relevant to First Nations today – topics like water problems, foster care, missing women, and addiction.” – Channel Canada
“With a raw, unflinching look at life on a Native Canadian reserve, Blackstone boasts performances and characters usually reserved for networks like FX and HBO and series like Rescue Me and The Shield.” – TVguide.ca
“It’s pretty raw at times… It’s like the Canadian and the First Nations version of The Wire in a sense that it’s painting a really raw image of what life could be like.” – George Stroumbouloulos Tonight
Blackstone in Black and White
Blackstone behind the scene
Director: Ron E. Scott
Writer: Ron E. Scott
Stars: Carmen Moore, Eric Schweig, Michelle Thrush, Nathaniel Arcand, Steven Cree Molison, Andrea Menard, Ray G. Thunderchild.
WINNER – GEMINI AWARDS
Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role
Best Achievement in Main Title Design
WINNER – LEO AWARDS
Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series
Best Screenwriting in a Drama
WINNER – AFTA
Best Screenwriter Drama Over 30
Best Production Reflecting Cultural Diversity
WINNER – AFTA
Best Dramatic Production Under 60
Best Screenwriter Drama Over 30
Best Production Reflecting Cultural Diversity
WINNER – American Indian Film Festival (San Francisco)
Best Supporting Actress
“I was homeless when I was a kid. I walked the streets with holes in my shoes and I stood in line at soup kitchens. I lived in hostels and I was an alcoholic until 14 years ago. I never met my biological mother. I was adopted at six months of age. My mother died of alcoholism and she was homeless as well. I also am an adult survivor of abuse by my adoptive parents. Now I am an outreach worker. I am a resource assistant for youth, I work in the street. I started volunteering with Resource Assistance for Youth—RaY Inc., and they hired me to work with them. I now work with homeless people in Winnipeg, Manitoba—we feed them and clothe them. I work with sex trade workers and I try to hook them up with agencies that can help them. I don’t just talk about it, I do it.” (Eric Schweig, Indian Country, 2012)
“If I had any advice for young people, it would be to find out whatever it is you love to do, and do it, and don’t let anybody derail you from what you want to do. Just look inside your hearth, and find out what it is, and go after it. And do it until your dead.”
(Eric Schweig, Blackstone Cycle, 2011)
The film Big Eden (2000) by Thomas Bezucha is a wonderful film, which address the themes of love and homosexuality through tolerance, acceptance, kindness, friendship, humor and tenderness. Big Eden was a breakthrough film that finally depicted gay men of all shapes, sizes, and ages navigating the treacherous waters of love just like regular folks, with no over-the-top drama or any other stereotypically “gay” details thrown in just for laughs. It won awards in several gay and lesbian film festivals, and was nominated for best limited release film at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2002.
The film stars Arye Gross as Henry Hart, a successful, but lonely gay artist from New York City, who returns to his rural hometown in Montana, to care for his ailing grandfather, Sam Hart (George Coe). Henry is welcomed back by the townsfolk, all of whom are aware of his sexuality and are highly accepting and even supportive towards him (the film’s plot and dialogue is notably devoid of homophobic content). While at home, Henry is forced to confront his unresolved feelings for high school friend Dean Stewart (Tim DeKay), while simultaneously beginning to fall in love with Pike Dexter (Eric Schweig), the shy Native American owner of the Big Eden’s general store.
Eric Schweig won the Grand Jury Award Outfest as Outstanding Actor for his role as Pike Dexter in Big Eden. He appears on the screen fifteen minutes after the beginning of the film, when Henry, accompanied by his aunt, the angelic Grace Cornwell (Louise Fletcher) goes to the general store. Grace wishes to consult Pike for finding a solution regarding Sam’s meals, who returns from the hospital following a heart attack, and Henry’s meals, who do not cook at all. Pike proposes to ask the old widow Thayer (Nan Martin) to cook for them, but Grace insists that Pike should deliver the meals every day. Pike is a gentle being, a quiet and lonely man, which feels much better at home with his dog instead of being in the midst of the mob. He is also obviously very troubled by the presence of Henry, but he accepts to help Grace.
As the meals prepared by the widow Thayer are hardly appetizing, Pike decides to secretly cook better meals for Henry and his grandfather, and began to study some cookbooks with great application. At each delivery, Pike surreptitiously replaces the meals cooked by the widow Thayer for his own meals, much to the delight of Henry and Sam. Through his visits, Pike becomes more and more in love with Henry, but he seems so tormented by his feelings that the villagers give him support: the widow Thayer, who discovered his shenanigans and was touched by his dedication to Henry, as well as the old bunch of cowboys who used to hang out at the general store, come to help Pike to cook his sophisticated and elaborate recipes for Henry.
Because of his shyness and feelings, Pike always refuses Henry’s invitations to stay for dinner when delivering the meals at their home. But one day, while Sam is in bed, Henry really begs Pike to stay with him and keep him company. During dessert, Pike discovers one of the paintings of Henry in the next room. The work represents the stars of the Pleiades and Pike suddenly unravels; he starts telling an Onondaga myth associated with this constellation. This myth is about children exiled in heaven and transformed into stars, children which still remember their hometown and the unconditional love of their parents. So, they sometimes return to earth to see them again, as shooting stars. Henry is deeply touched by this story, which resembles his own exile in New York as well as the unconditional acceptance of his homosexuality expressed by his grandfather and all the other folks of Big Eden. Henry seems then to discover his emerging feelings for Pike, and the two heroes will open themselves gradually to love, but not without struggling first with their own fears.
The love and support that every inhabitant of Big Eden are sharing with other community members remind us that family ties, friendship, love, and especially the acceptance of others, transcend the barriers of generations, cultures and sexual inclinations. These unilateral tolerance and benevolence unfortunately do not exist in reality, but making them as credible and beautiful on the screen, Thomas Bezucha really makes us wish to become better human beings.
Dialogues, photography, screenplay, editing, casting and actor’s performances in this film are really great, but Eric Schweig steals the movie. His shyness and yearning for Henry is so heartfelt that we sincerely hoped to see him capture Henry’s affection.
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Writer: Thomas Bezucha
Stars: Arye Gross, Eric Schweig, Tim DeKay, Louise Fletcher, George Coe
-2001 Cleveland International Film Festival Best Film and Best American Independent Feature Film (Bezucha)
-2001 Florida Film Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature (Bezucha)
-2000 L.A. Outfest Audience Award for Outstanding Narrative Feature (Bezucha) and Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film (Schweig)
-2001 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Jury Award for Best Fiction Feature (Bezucha)
-2000 San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Audience Award for Best Feature (Bezucha)
-2000 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Audience Award for Favorite Narrative Feature (Bezucha)
-2001 Toronto Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival for Best Feature Film or Video (Bezucha)
Eric points out that we are all humans and our natural instincts are to help others. His message is: “We are all connected so do whatever you can do.”
(Eric Schweig, SAY, 2012)
The 1994 Disney movie Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale, starring native actors Adam Beach and Eric Schweig, tells the 17th Century story of a high-born Indian warrior from a tribe on the Atlantic coast of North America, who has been taken to England against his will. He finally gets back; only to find his people decimated by a plague and English people living in what was once his home. He’s faced with the choice of joining another tribe in their attack on the Pilgrims or trying to make peace between the two sides.
In this film, Eric Schweig plays the secondary role of Epenow, the unfortunate companion of Squanto. If the main character played by Adam Beach is a likeable young man, impulsive and naive, Schweig’s Epenow is more mature and cunning; he carefully observes his enemy and constantly thinking of ways to take revenge on them.
Epenow appears after the first fifteen minutes of the film, when he finds himself tied up with Squanto to the bottom of a ship’s hold of the English, who kidnapped them from their villages. If the first words exchanged between the two protagonists suggest they are from rival tribes, they rapidly became accomplices against their captors.
Arrived in Plymouth in England, the two prisoners find suddenly themselves in a theatre. Squanto is thrown into the arena with a bear to entertain the crowd, but he managed to make a diversion and escapes with Epenow. In the wild ride that follows through the streets of Plymouth, Epenow injured his leg and ordered Squanto to flee without him.
After this separation, the experiences of the two protagonists with the English prove diametrically opposed. Squanto was rescued, cared for, housed and integrated into a community of peaceful monks, while Epenow is again captured by the English soldiers, who treat him like a zoo animal. Epenow does not yet let down. He watches and listens and he finally learns the language of his jailers. Seeing how they are greedy, treacherous and contemptuous, he tells them that there’s gold – lots of gold – in his village in America. This is obviously a lie, but Epenow thus succeeded in convincing them to take him home.
Learning the departure of a boat to New England, the monks develop a plan to enable Squanto to stow away and thus regain his native village. Epenow and Squanto then find themselves on the same ship that brings them back to North America, but Squanto has changed: he learned to forgive from the monks, while Epenow is still burning to avenge the evil that the English have done to his people.
The boat finally arrives on the shores of America, near the village of Epenow. During the celebration that follows the reunion of the warrior with his village, the tension is high and one feels that something is up. During the night, Squanto wakes with a start: he discovers that the tribe of Epenow set fire to the boat while the English crew was asleep inside. Disgusted by this horrible revenge, Squanto confronts Epenow. Unabated, the latter invited him to go to his own village to see what the English have done. So Squanto hand for his village. Upon arrival, he discovers a scene of desolation: everything is destroyed, there is no one left. Epenow was right and Squanto, now frantic with grief, decides to turn for revenge.
It will be the nearby colony, being built by new English settlers that will untie the story. Lurking in the woods, Squanto discovers Epenow and his warriors hiding in front of the colony. The attack is imminent, but Squanto takes a new decision. He gets up and walks disarmed between the settlers and Epenow’s warriors, pleading for peace once and for all. Unfortunately, the young son of Epenow charge anyway, and a colon fires on him. It is now the doctor of the colony who walks disarmed between the settlers and the warriors, to offer assistance and treat the wounded. Epenow, consumed by anger and fear of losing his son, launches this threat to the doctor: if his son dies, all the settlers would be killed.
Fortunately, thanks to the good care of the doctor, the good care of the medicine-man of the tribe, the prayers of the colonists and the songs of Epenow’s people, the young man healed, and peace between the English and the Indians is finally concluded.
If the story is improbable, costumes and native music are just as unlikely. What are these costumes?? What are these songs??? To play his character, Eric Schweig is often decked with feathers and flashy trinkets that seem to make him really uncomfortable. Moreover, in this Manichean opposition of good and evil / forgiveness and revenge, the secondary characters around Squanto and Epenow are so pushed to caricature that they become ludicrous at times.
Eric Schweig’s good interpretation of his character is all in the suppressed anger, from the beginning to the end, except for a rare and touching moment of tenderness when Epenow finds that his injured son is finally out of danger and he kisses him on the forehead. But every time I see the movie, I cannot conclude with certainty whether Eric-Epenow’s rage is for his enemies the English, or for his strange feather ornaments ;-)
Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale in Black and White
Director: Xavier Koller
Writer: Darlene Craviotto
Stars: Adam Beach, Eric Schweig, Mandy Patinkin, Michael Gambon, Nathaniel Parker.
In the province of Quebec, during Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, Eric Schweig plays one of the main characters for the new movie Maïna, a story of a spiritual journey a young woman undertakes in the Great North 3,500 years ago. The script is directly inspired by Dominique Demers novel Maïna. Beyond stunning images and landscapes, Maïna unfolds as an adventure film, coupled with a love story. Maïna is “a film about the knowledge of the other, which plays a lot of similarity and dissimilarity between two completely different cultures, the Innu and Inuit”, said director Michel Poulette. The story unfolds through scenes of hunting, battles and love, bringing characters dressed in period costumes, in a very realistic production.
Maïna (Roseanne Supernault) is the daughter of the Innu leader Mishtenapuu (Graham Greene), who attends a bloody confrontation between his clan and the clan of “Men of the Land of Ice.” Following this confrontation, Maïna chooses a mission that will change her life. To fulfill the promise that she has made to her friend Matsii on her deathbed, she embarked on the trail of their enemies to deliver Nipki (Uapshkuss Thernish), a 11 year old boy that the Inuit have captured. But she was also taken as prisoner by Natak (Ipellie Ootoova) and his brother-in-law Quujuuq (Eric Schweig), and forcibly taken to the Land of Ice.
The forty days of shooting for Maïna took place in the vast natural cathedrals of Mingan Park on the North Shore of Quebec, including the edge of the Magpie River, and the desert areas of northern Quebec (Nunavik). Maïna moved into production in Kuujjuaq in May 2012. “Planning the film’s segments in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, on Quebec’s north shore, and in Kuujjuaq, proved to be a cross-cultural experience that everyone involved in the film embraced”, says producer Yves Fortin.
In an artistic choice that honors Mr. Poulette, he has argued that all the characters in the film had to speak Innu and Inuktitut. In short, no strange accent to discuss in the languages in question, a Hollywood fad that Graham Greene has parodied in the comedy Maverick. To minimize the use of subtitles, the dialogues were minimized. A silence, a look, it also speaks. No character will be doubled, so we will hear Eric Schweig speaks Inuktitut, the language of his ancestors, for the first time on screen.
Scheduled for release in Fall 2013, the French subtitled version of Maïna will be distributed by Equinoxe in Quebec and possibly in France, and its English subtitled version will be distributed by Union Picture in Canada and, if all goes well, in the United States as well.
Director Michel Poulette from Productions Nuit Blanche, and Danny Bergeron from the Canadian production company Wizzfilms, argue that this production is a first film collaboration between white, Innu and Inuit. The Innu, through their leader Jean-Charles Piétacho and Innu Council of Ekuanitshit (Mingan), as well as the Inuit, through the leader Pita Aatami, President of Makivik Corporation, decided to support the project to the point of becoming co-producers.
Screenplay: Pierre Billon
Production: Michel Poulette
Stars: Roseanne Supernault (Maïna), Tantoo Cardinal, Graham Greene, Eric Schweig, Ipellie Ootoova, Natar Ungalaaq and Uapshkuss Thernish.
An article published in April 1993 in the newspaper Inuvik Drum reports the testimony of Eric Schweig about one of his dreams:
« Schweig said he had a strange feeling that he might never meet his mother after a dream he had when he was 18. In the dream he was walking towards a house where he could see a woman that he knew was his mother, but when he was 5 feet from the open door it slammed shut. “I was crying when I woke up…it was so vivid”, Schweig said. »
The article in Inuvik Drum also reported this event:« One day in Vancouver, where [Eric Schweig] now lives, he met Willie Thrasher on the street. The two got talking and before long Schweig realized he must be related to Thrasher. He said Thrasher hooked him up with his Aunt Agnes in Williams Lake, B.C. in the hopes of finding his mother. But three days later, his birth mother died and he was too late. »
Just as in his dream, Eric Schweig was so close to find his biological mother, but death locked an insurmountable door on Margaret Thrasher only a few days before Eric Schweig had the opportunity to see her.
Source: Inuvik Drum
Mr. Barrington is a dramatic thriller directed by Dana Packard, starring Jennifer Nichole Porter, Brian McCardieand Eric Schweig. The film centers around the lives of Lila, an acutely agoraphobic poet going through a bout of writer’s block, and her husband, Samuel, who is only vaguely aware of his wife’s psychological troubles. When Lila hears a noise coming from her front porch one morning, her subsequent investigation reveals Mr. Barrington, a charming and oddly familiar man atop an old-fashioned bicycle. Lila becomes obsessed with Mr. Barrington’s increasingly surreal visits, and her mental health deteriorates even further. Unable to continue ignoring Lila’s problems, Samuel pays a visit to the dreary orphanage where Lila was raised as a child. Once there, the convent director reluctantly reveals a shocking piece of history.
Mr. Barrington is a strange, touching and very personal film that I found very interesting. The three main actors are truly excellent. My only downside about this is that Jennifer Nichole Porter is playing so well the child inside of her character that it removes almost completely the real woman on the screen. She speaks, moves and reacts just like a frightened child of 10 years.
Consequently, even if Eric Schweig is perfect in the role of the tender and loving husband, one really wonders where is this woman he loves so much in the film. All expressions of affection between the spouses are also deliberately deprived of any sensuality during the film, as if the director wanted to make sure that we see the wounded and vulnerable child in Lila’s adult body. The process is so extreme that the marital relationship between Lila and Samuel appeared to me very unlikely. The “woman Lila” appears to us only at the end of the film, when she finally tells Samuel the drama of her childhood.
Besides the two main characters (Lila and Mr. Barrington) that are particularly cryptic and intense, the character played by Eric Schweig appears quite realistic. Samuel is a carpenter and worked in a small sawmill, where other workers despise him. Perhaps because of his artistic talent? Samuel has a passion for drawing. During his breaks, he drew Lila’s face endlessly in his sketchbook, as if he was trying to penetrate the secrets of his wife’s thoughts through each pencil stroke. Poor Samuel, he is very lonely between his wife who is lost in her imaginary world, and his colleagues who ostracize him.
Samuel is a sweet and gentle giant, full of compassion, carefully holding a wounded bird in his hand (by the way, the credits of the film begins on an old engraving of St. Francis of Assisi surrounded by birds…). Samuel tries to understand the mental trouble of his wife with all his love, without ever losing contact with reality, but also without escaping a deep sadness in front of the growing pain of Lila. The kind of deep sadness Eric Schweig excels particularly well to express in his films. But rest assured, Samuel’s steadfast love for Lila overcomes Mr. Barrington…
Director: Dana Packard
Writer: Jennifer Nichole Porter
Stars: Jennifer Nichole Porter, Eric Schweig and Brian McCardie
I think it is particularly interesting that Eric Schweig, an actor, is also involved in the creation of masks. Since the dawn of time, the mask is a strange and remarkable object of metamorphosis, both related to shamanism and acting. Whether in ancient rituals or theatrical catharsis, the mask, in its strange fixity of expression, is a medium of an unexpected truth dramatically revealed. It is the perfect vehicle for identity’s alteration.
As an Inuit child adopted by a Caucasian family, Eric Schweig has been in search of his identity for a long time. In a white family, he was confronted very early to his difference. Therefore, I am not surprised that he later sought his inner landmarks in the incarnation of different characters in movies, and in the creation of masks.
Eric Schweig masks show the influence of traditional Inuit Spirit Masks, with an exuberant aesthetic, great audacity and beauty. They are all absolutely fascinating. Made of carved wood or bone, sometimes painted and assembled, these Inuit masks, often decorated with feathers or fur, tells a particular story, a transcendental journey unique and specific. With their expressive originality, these masks reflect the idea of perpetual transformation, a concept central to Inuit cosmology.
In the light of all statements made by Eric Schweig during his career, I also observe the expression of a great emotional pain in some of his masks called «Adoption masks» or «Inuit Man Screaming » which are inspired by Indonesian masks. I also see in these particular works a clear affiliation with the renowned painting by Edvard Munch “The Scream”.
In the painting of Edvard Munch and some «adoption masks» made by Eric Schweig, the opposition of warm colours (red, orange) and cold colours (blue or black) can be highly symbolic. Warm colours evoke fire, blood and life, cold colours symbolize death, emptiness and anguish. In both works, the curves are strongly drawn around the mouth as a network of energy. The scream distorts the outlines of each artwork and becomes almost audible to the viewer. The two artworks show the tremendous force of an inner turmoil, like the physical embodiment of an existential crisis.
It seems also interesting to note that this actor and creator of masks was first noticed for his unique beautiful face, showing features like if they have been cut with a knife. And the fierce fixity of Eric Schweig expression in his early films was not without causing the same fascination than a mask. Later, the actor seems to have felt more comfortable to play with different expressions, but each time, the power of his facial architecture has always made me think of Inuit masks. The actor and the mask become united…
About Eric Schweig masks:
About Inuit masks:
The Broken Chain is an American historical drama, produced in 1993 for television by Lamont Johnson. In this film, Eric Schweig took the leading role for the first time in his career, playing the famous Iroquois Chief Joseph Brandt / Thayendanegea. At his side, we find Pierce Brosnan (Sir William Johnson, New York’s agent to the Iroquois for the British Empire), Wes Studi (Seth, Chief and Speaker for the Tribes), Buffy Sainte-Marie (Gesina, Seth’s Wife and Head of the Mother’s Council), JC White Shirt (Lohaheo, Thayendanegea’s friend and brother in battle), Elaine Bilstad (Catherine, Gesina’s granddaughter and Thayendanegea’s first love), Graham Greene (two brief and silent appearances as the spirit of The Peace Maker). The story is set in the 18th century. While the Revolutionary War rages, two Iroquois brothers battle with settlers moving into new territory. Joseph Brant / Thayendanegea, a young Mohawk warrior, fought valiantly to drive the French out of America. He is thus noticed by Sir William Johnson, who sent him in an English school. But Joseph’s new allegiance to the British Empire will pose serious problems on his return to his tribe.
Eric Schweig starts the film with a voiceover narration, describing a brief history of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League and their “Great Peace” (which inspired the political model of the United States). Nathan Lee embodies Joseph Brant for these first chapters showing the teenage years of the future Iroquois leader. Eric Schweig appears later in the film, at the Battle of Fort Carillon.
This role as a warrior was perfectly fits for Eric Schweig’s stature, but it did not offer him many opportunities to develop his character. Therefore, Eric Schweig keeps his famous fierce and impenetrable facial expression almost throughout the entire film. There are other problems regarding direction of actors in this movie: Pierce Brosnan and Buffy Sainte-Marie accentuates their acting sometimes way too much.
Still, Eric Schweig has some intimate moments in The Broken Chain where he can play in a more nuanced way. I’m thinking especially of the two dialogues with Buffy Sainte-Marie, the one where Joseph asks for Catherine’s hand, and the one where, after suffering Catherine’s refusal, he decides to leave the village, with obvious emotional pain.
It is also interesting to compare some of Eric Schweig’s lines of dialogue in The Broken Chain with some of his lines in his recent role as Bug in Kissed by Lightning (2009) by Mohawk artist and filmmaker Shelley Niro. In The Broken Chain, after destroying the village of a Delaware tribe, Joseph Brant brought back a captive, Peggy (Grace Renn) and he falls in love with her. In his declaration of love in the canoe that brings them back to his village, when he said “I want you to be happy, I want to make you happy,” I heard in my head the same sentence said by Eric Schweig in Niro’s film. The comparison shows the enormous progress made by the actor since his beginning.
The unusual element of the film is the prosthesis on Eric Schweig’s forehead during the second part of The Broken Chain. Iroquois men were accustomed to shave their heads, but it was of course out of the question that Eric Schweig cuts his beautiful long hair for the role of Joseph Brant. The movie team therefore applied a prosthetic front on his head to give the impression that he had shaved half of his skull. The result was a disaster. Joseph Brant looks more like a Klingon from Star Trek than an Iroquois, but Eric Schweig keeps the dignity of his character in spite of this strange thing on his forehead, and even managed to move us in his speech at the end of the film, when Brandt admits his mistake in giving his trust to the English who have betrayed and abandoned his people.
In conclusion, The Broken Chain is not the best of Eric Schweig’s movies. The sets, editing and cinematography are classic and well done, the story is well told and puts forward the views and values of First Nations (especially the Iroquois matriarchy), so, for these reasons, the film deserves to be watched with attention. By the way, Eric Schweig praises The Broken Chain for having three Native American co-producers and eight Iroquois consultants who were meticulous in their attention to historical details.
Interestingly, Eric Schweig again embodied Joseph Brant on the screen seven years later (although very briefly), this time in the television series Canada: A People’s History (2000).
The Broken Chain in Black and White
The Broken Chain Movie Stills
Director: Lamont Johnson
Writer: Earl W. Wallace
Actors: Eric Schweig, Pierce Brosnan, Wes Studi, Buffy Sainte-Marie, J.C. White Shirt, Elaine Bilstad, Graham Greene.
By reading various interviews and articles about Eric Schweig, published since the early 1990s, and by combining information gleaned here and there, a fascinating journey takes shape before our eyes. Without ever really reveal details of his private life, Eric Schweig has generously shared with the public his thoughts and feelings about some key moments of his obstacle course.
This moving testimony shows the pursuit of a resilient spirit in search of its identity, and in search of some meaning to traumatic events of the past. This journey (which the artist puts forth as much as his achievements), thus acquires a very special resonance. Embedded in success and popularity, the life, art, acting and outreach work of Eric Schweig highlight some crucial issues about First Nations and youth in Canada: adoption, uprooting, double standard justice, assimilation, violence against children, homeless, drug and alcohol abuse, condescension and indifference about First Nations cultures and values.
This life of an artist can creates the same effect as a work of art: it is a very personal and individual experience that carries a universal message. Other exemples of artists’ lives so closely related to their arts with the same kind of resonance: The life and films of Russian director Andreï Tarkovsky, the life and paintings of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, the lives and books of English writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë… Their arts, and their lives, were all haunted by a violent rupture in childhood, just like Eric Schweig’s masks, acting and life.
In one of her book, Allison Lurie explain how this haunting occurs: when a childhood ends too soon and abruptly (violence, incest, adoption, death of a parent, foster care, war, etc.), a portion of itself did not leave the child gently and naturally, but instead is violently pushed to hide inside. This part of childhood is thereby forever preserved unchanged. It can stay there forever. But in the case of artists, this hidden inner child is always looking to express himself through artworks. We then see appears, in these creations and artists’lives, a characteristic combination of innocence, magnetic personality, fragility, idealism, deep sensitivity, depth, sadness, mystery, rebellion, love and fierce independence of mind. In light of the information currently available about Eric Schweig, I think it’s safe to say that these qualities describe him particularly well.
The life of Eric Schweig, through a subjective chronology in photographs, paintings and videos.
19 June 1967
“In the very earliest time, when both people and animals lived on earth, a person could become an animal if he wanted to, and an animal could become a human being. Sometimes they were people and sometimes animals and there was no difference. All spoke the same language. That was the time when words were like magic. The human mind had mysterious powers. A word spoken by chance might have strange consequences. It would suddenly come alive and what people wanted to happen could happen— all you had to do was say it. Nobody can explain this: That’s the way it was.” Nalungiaq
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” Matsuo Basho
I am adopted.
I am abused.
I am an orphan.
like a stifled cry from the emotions that overwhelm.
Living in exile at home
An impossible escape
A folding on myself.
a long punishment
which bends my back.
Joséphine Bacon – Bâtons à message Tshissinuashitakana
Publisher : Mémoire d’encrier, 2009
“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.” Mark Twain
“You have to know the past to understand the present.” Carl Sagan
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between 2 “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
“Seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy – myself” (Inuit proverb).
Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones smile down to let us know that they are happy for us. (Inuit Proverb)
“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” Emily Dickinson
The wolf and the shaman are of one nest. (Inuit Proverb)
Despite your strength
Despite your resistance
I come to you
I give myself to you
“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Charles Dudley
I think over again my small adventures, my fears / These small ones that seemed so big / For all the vital things I had to get and to reach / And yet there is only one great thing / The only thing / To live to see the great day that dawns / And the light that fills the world. (Inuit Prayer)
If Eric Schweig wanted to break the angelic mould of Uncas (The Last of the Mohicans) once and for all, he could not do better than play in Arbor Live wacky skits, from 2009 to 2013.
Rock guitarist Stevie Salas hosts ARBOR LIVE, a high energy and fast paced music variety TV show featuring emerging Aboriginal artists alongside today’s global super stars. Join Stevie, comedic director “Steelbird” and his “assistant” real life movie star Eric Schweig as they present these incredible live performances, in-depth artist interviews and hilarious comedic back stage antics with featured artists.
Stevie, along with longtime friend and acclaimed actor Eric Schweig, escorts audiences on an ‘all access’ excellent adventure onstage, offstage, backstage, and everywhere in between. “We wanted to make a comedy scripted reality show done in the style of The Larry Sanders Show or The Office,” explains series’ Producer Brandon Friesen of Arbor Records. Rather than make a standard music variety show, the goal was to make the camera part of the action and give viewers an intimate glimpse of the live music lifestyle.
With Brandon being a longtime fan of actor Eric Schweig, and Stevie his longtime friend, Eric was an obvious choice for co-host. Regardless of the fact that Eric, known for darkly dramatic roles in movies and on television, had never done comedy. When the producers asked him to do the series, Eric responded with “I don’t know how to do comedy.” And that was the perfect answer for Brandon: “We didn’t want someone who did comedy, actually. We wanted Eric. He always plays a scary bad guy, and he’s so intense and dark, so we thought that would translate really well into what we were doing. And it did. He comes across funny without even trying to be. He’s brilliant!” Nation Talk
Even if the sense of humour of Arbor Live is strongly impregnated with testosterone, Eric Schweig is really funny, and he seems to take real pleasure in playing comedy. Without fear of ridicule or self-mockery, he appears in Seasons 1 and 2:
-Dressed up as a giant yellow chick
– Dressed up as a gorilla
– Dressed up as a sexy blonde (Erica!)
– Dressed up as a Santa’s elf with green tights
-Dancing with fluorescent yellow tights
-Nude in a tub full of ice
-With marshmallow all over his face during a romantic interlude
-On all fours while being whipped by sadomasochists
-Dancing in blue panties and leather jacket
– His buttocks being bitten by singer Bekki Friesen (Domenica)
Uncas takes on the chin here, poor guy, but Eric Schweig shows that he is not afraid of testing the limits of his natural talent, playing both in serious drama movies and in crazy comedy shows.
Arbor Live tendency to fall into scatology and sexual ambiguity is not your kind of humour? Well, there is good music during the show, with wonderful guests such as George Leach, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Staind, You Say Party, Lucie Idlout, Raven Kanatakta, Adaline, Black Label Society, Derek Miller, Florent Volant and Leela Gilday, to name a few.
Season 3 of Arbor Live still has Salas, his “assistant” real life movie star, Eric Schweig, and new cast member and also real life movie star, Adam Beach, as three native guys who run a music variety TV show, but have absolutely… no idea what they are doing.
During my studies in cinema, I must admit that despite all the knowledge I learned, I never managed to get interested in American historical epic motion pictures, and they still continue to bother me today. However, a blog dedicated to Eric Schweig cannot avoid posting about The Last of the Mohicans, and about its crucial impact on Eric Schweig’s career. The role of Uncas, although secondary and virtually silent, has propelled him to stardom.
The Last of the Mohicans is about three trappers protecting a British Colonel’s daughters in the midst of the French and Indian War. As the English and French soldiers battle for control of the North American colonies in the 18th century, the settlers and native Americans are forced to take sides. Cora and her sister Alice unwittingly walk into trouble but are saved by Hawkeye, an orphaned settler adopted by the last of the Mohicans.
I am still deeply disturbed by the Hollywood “Tonto”, “Indian Blood-Thirsty” and “Noble Savage” stereotypes carried by this movie from the 1990s, but for the purposes of this post, I played my old VHS cassette of The Last of the Mohicans (often using the fast forward button though…), in order to go beyond what everyone already knows: Eric Schweig was of magnetic beauty and presence in this film.
We all know what beauty is, but how do we define an actor’s “presence”? This rare quality often escapes theory and definitions. It is often confused with energy, photogenic, corporeal theatrical power or charisma. In the case of Eric Schweig in The Last of the Mohicans, the severity of his expression and the weight of his silence create a striking contrast with the palpable unrest and nervousness expressed by other main characters in the movie. Uncas stands out like if he was “the eye in the middle of the storm”, a kind of axis at the center of a vast epic drama vortex. Therefore, it was necessary that this axis (Uncas) looked particularly strong, quiet and calm, otherwise the emotional energy of this large-scale movie would have exploded in all directions. The casting department has done a good job here, Eric Schweig had the perfect physical characteristics to play this kind of axis.
Let me explain. The film seems to be conceived as a sphere containing a violent swirling storm. The envelope (or periphery) of the sphere is yet perfectly calm, grand and majestic, to create the necessary sublimation of the violent scenes that take place inside. This calm envelope is in fact the natural landscape of the film, shot beautifully by the director of photography Dante Spinotti. For the sphere retains its balance and stands as a coherent world, the envelope of the storm (the landscape) and its “eye” or axis (Uncas) had to be aesthetically similar: quiet, magnificent and majestic. The choice of Eric Schweig in this regard was therefore highly relevant.
Michael Mann, the director, pushes further the correlation between the axis and the envelope of the sphere (between Uncas and the landscape) by dressing Uncas in the same kind of green as the surrounding forest. Also, in the opening scene of the film where the protagonists hunt a deer, the first close-up of Uncas shows him in a kind of mystical communion with the dead animal lying at his feet. One understands immediately that Uncas has his own secret inner world, spiritually connected to nature, which contributes to put him aside the main turbulent narrative, filled with flesh, blood and heightened feelings. Again, it places him in “the eye of the storm “and in a pivotal role at the calm center of the story.
The director of The Last of the Mohicans uses another trick to reinforce the pivotal role of Uncas: to my knowledge, he gave Eric Schweig the only “look into the camera” scene of the film, in the sequence near a river where Uncas looks at Alice and is attracted to her for the first time. In classic movies, the “look into the camera” is usually taboo, because it breaks the convention of the closed and imaginary world of the film (the diegetic space). As a spectator, when we are suddenly “watched” by one of the actors, we realize our awkward position of voyeur. But to get a real “look into the camera” that breaks this convention, the actor must look at the camera without another actor (or object), which may be required as the recipient of that look. Editing in The Last of the Mohicans clearly indicates that Uncas was looking at Alice, not “us”, so, the director has instead used the “look into the camera”s power of “phasing”. If it avoids breaking the film’s convention, this “phasing” places Uncas even more off the reality in which all the other characters evolve, and locates him in a floating and undefined space-time outside the temporality of the narrative.
Michael Mann also used another film technique to accentuate this strange effect around Uncas: the slow motion in the sequence behind the falls, when Uncas took Alice into his arms. This brief change of rhythm in the temporality of the film contributes once again to exit Uncas in this quiet and mysterious place at the center of the turmoil.
Finally, the symmetry of the opening scene (the deer killed falling from a bank) and the closing scene (Uncas falling from the cliff, again mystically connected in his own death to the deer of the first scene), allows the envelope of the sphere (the landscape) and its axis (Uncas) to collide, reaching a huge emotional implosion which appeases the tension of the film and ends the epic.
Contrary to some reviews, I think that Eric Schweig was not simply displaying his breathtaking beauty in The Last of the Mohicans, despite the lack of space offered to Uncas in the script (1). I think he understood very well (intuitively or consciously, I do not know…) the challenge of this axis role by exploiting his “presence” and by acting fairly and steadily, with the necessary subtle expressions: natural humanity and tenderness in the scenes with the Camerons and Alice / discrete fraternal complicity with the hero / strength and concentration without emphasis in the fight scenes. He would have acted with more intensity, and the “eye of the storm” would have moved into the vortex of the action and created chaos instead of spiral energy. He would have acted with less intensity, and Uncas would have completely lost the little substance he has, and the axis would have collapsed on itself, leaving the film without balance.
During my studies in cinema, the teachers taught us how each element of decoration, each color, each object in a film could bring an unexpected symbolic meaning which could influence the message carried by the script, as a kind of narrative underlying. A director must be aware of this phenomenon and control all visuals and narrative aspects of his film if he wants to preserve his original message. All cinematic devices used in the film to highlight Uncas for the structural needs of the scenario contributed to throw the spotlight on Eric Schweig’s performance which, while not spectacular or mature, has therefore taken a surprising and fascinating aura.
The Last of the Mohicans in Black and White
The Last of the Mohicans BEHIND THE SCENE
Director: Michael Mann
Writer: James Fenimore Cooper (novel)
Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Eric Schweig, Russell Means, Jodhi May, Wes Studi, Steven Waddington.
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(1) The original script had several scenes for Uncas that have been cut during editing, including a rather explicit love scene with Alice.
Yesterday, I watched the movie Mr.Soul by director Jeremy Torrie on APTN. Eric Schweig plays the role of Steve Lonethunder, the father of Shirley Lonethunder, a native girl of 18 reported missing. This dramatic film looks at a serial killer whose murder of Aboriginal women went unreported and ignored by police and media.
This is a difficult film to watch sometimes, but absolutely necessary. “The movie is based on Warren Goulding’s 2001 book, Just Another Indian – A Serial Killer and Canada’s Indifference. Goulding’s book is a stinging indictment of Canadian society’s cold indifference to the plight of so many aboriginal women. John Martin Crawford, a hulking, greasy, lowlife drifter, was serving life in a Saskatchewan penitentiary for killing three aboriginal prostitutes in Saskatoon in the 1990s. Years earlier, he did time for manslaughter for the death of another prostitute in Lethbridge. He is suspected of several other killings. At the time of the case, Crawford was the second-most deadly serial killer in Canadian history, next to depraved child-murderer Clifford Olson. Why? Because his victims were native women working the streets – hardly worth worrying about. Crawford knew this, and specifically targeted aboriginal prostitutes because they’re far less likely to be undercover cops, and besides, he rationalized, nobody would miss them anyway.” Vancouver Eastside Missing Women
In the film, this serial killer preys on prostitutes from the mean streets of a small, mid-west city as the police turn a blind eye. With an insatiable sexual appetite, the killer brutalizes his victims and leaves their bodies at Moon Lake outside of town. A voice inside the killer’s head commands him to kill, his victims beg for death. John Martin Crawford is only too happy to oblige. But Moon Lake happens to be a spiritual holy ground for the local Native Americans, and soon the victims’ ghosts are haunting both family members and complete strangers in desperate pleas for justice so their souls may rest. A supernatural story that reminds us the dead are not powerless.
Even if, in some scenes of the film, we feel that Eric Schweig loses focus and contact with his character, his acting is memorable in the scene of the sweat lodge, where Steve Lonethunder invokes his missing daughter to ask for her forgiveness. The complex emotions of his character are expressed with moving eloquence by Eric Schweig, through his legendary deep voice. Gordon Tootoosis, another great actor, is solemn with the right tone in his role as spiritual guide and healer , and the young actress playing the role of Shirley Lonethunder (April Seenie) is disarmingly natural.
Director: Jeremy Torrie
Writer: Jeremy Torrie
Actors: Eric Schweig, Gordon Tootoosis, April Seenie, Mike Butters, John Kapelos, Lois Brothers, Monika Schurmann, David Stuart Evans, Darcy Fehr, Deena Fontaine, Rachel Seenie, Rayne Jimmy, Stan Lesk, Holly Bernier, Dellarees Sawanash.