Rocks at Whiskey Trench (2000)


Rocks at Whiskey Trench Storyline

This feature documentary profiles a key element of the 1990 Oka crisis in which the Mohawk communities of Kahnawake and Kanehsatake stood against the Canadian military and Canadian citizens in a stand-off that turned violent. On August 28, 1990, a convoy of 75 cars left the Mohawk community of Kahnawake and crossed Montreal’s Mercier Bridge-straight into an angry mob that pelted the vehicles with rocks. The targets of this violence were Mohawk women, children and elders leaving Kahnawake, in fear of a possible advance by the Canadian army. This film is the fourth in Alanis Obomsawin’s landmark series on the Mohawk rebellions that shook Canada in 1990.

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Rocks at Whiskey Trench Movie Reviews

A truly touching account of the Oka Crisis…

This is Alanis Obomsawin’s most recent film documenting the Oka crisis (1990)in Quebec.

Now a decade later Obomsawin takes the camera to the people of the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake to recount their experiences and how its affected their lives. She also interviews people of Chateauguay, Montreal, Peacekeepers and local Chiefs.

It was during the Oka crisis that a convoy of children, women and elders being evacuated were bombarded with stones at Whiskey Trench (a highway underpass) – hence the name Rocks at Whiskey Trench. I was truly shocked and sad to hear of the shameful acts of the Quebec government and the unforgettable abuse of the peoples Human Rights.

Obomsawin’s use of archive footage and personal accounts made this a truly touching and sad film to see. The Oka crisis will remain one of Canada’s most hideous events in history. This is a film that should be widely shown to increase National knowledge of the event and tell the story of the innocent people affected by it.

Such an amazing story

Rocks at Whiskey Trench: 5 out of 10: Rocks at Whiskey Trench tells both the story of the horrific incident when French Canadians pelted women, children and the elderly with rocks as they were fleeing their reservation as well as coverage of the entire Oka Crisis.

The Good: The footage of French Canadians with mullets throwing large rocks at a caravan of fleeing native Canadians really speaks for itself. It is a harrowing picture and whatever faults the documentary has those scenes are simply unforgettable.

The documentary is populated with a lot of talking head interviews with the Mohawks at Oka and there are some very nice stories that come out of these interviews. You really get a sense of the people involved (at least on one side).

The Bad: Documentaries are hard to review because you have two separate factors that can come into conflict. How interesting/important is the subject matter and how good is the documentary. The subject matter, in this case, could not be more interesting but the documentary as a whole does it a bit of a disservice.

Imagine the movie Jaws if the shark had been killed off after an hour. That is the problem Rocks at Whiskey Trench runs into. The documentary focuses on this one incident so much (Understandable so) that when it pivots halfway through the film to the rest of the story (And some longwinded detours) a viewer can understandably be a bit disoriented.

The movie leaves out (or at least soft-pedals) some fairly important facts particularly the fact a local police officer was killed in the initial standoff that started this siege. Not a small factor in the local and eventually national governments overreaction.

The Ugly: The description of the movie states that it is available in both English and French. The version I saw was in both English and French apparently at random and without reason. Even using subtitles was haphazard as the subtitles sometimes interfered with the subtitles the movie itself used while another time you would simply be in the wilderness while the narrator drones on in Quebecian French.

In conclusion: Local radio hosts like Gilles Proulx inflamed passions claiming the Mohawks couldn’t even speak French while other radio hosts directed crowds to attack the natives and their barricades. This “tall trees” style attack is very briefly mentioned in the documentary and one would think that the hatred and propaganda on the French Canadian side should get more of a look at. Instead, we get a half hour program on how the Mercer bridge was constructed and honestly one too many talking head interviews describing the exact same event the exact same way.

Such an amazing story and yet one feels that the documentary simply isn’t up to the task despite such wonderful access.