Bootlegger Review: 2022 Native Cinema Showcase

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Bootlegger: A Unique Perspective on the Struggles of Marginalized Communities

Screened at the 2022 Native Cinema Showcase, Caroline Monnet’s film, Bootlegger, offers a captivating and insightful glimpse into the challenges faced by marginalized groups. This annual event, organized by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, showcases movies from various indigenous tribes across the globe. Each film unveils a different culture and provides a unique perspective on the lives of indigenous peoples in the modern world. Bootlegger, the first film on the lineup, takes place on an Algonquin reservation in Quebec, Canada.

A Story of Struggle and Identity

Bootlegger follows the narrative of Mani (played by Devery Jacobs), an Algonquin student who longs to reconnect with her community after completing her college education. However, she becomes entangled in a legal battle concerning the sale of alcohol on the reservation, which will be subject to a referendum in the upcoming election. Laura (portrayed by Brigitte Poupart), the titular bootlegger, utilizes her gains to support herself and her family, fully aware that the legality of her business could result in her expulsion from the town. Both Mani and Laura present legitimate reasons to support their respective claims, creating a dramatic conflict against the backdrop of the impending vote.

What truly drives the movie is the compelling dynamic between the two leading characters. They find themselves straddling two worlds, with Mani balancing her native heritage and her life as a graduate student, while Laura juggles her role as an illegal trader and her responsibilities as a devoted wife and mother. The tragic death of Laura’s daughter further deepens the divide between the two women, leading them to contemplate the optimal governance approach for their tribe. Should they adhere to traditional practices or embrace modernity by permitting the sale of alcohol? Regardless of the outcome, someone’s livelihood is at stake. Both Devery Jacobs and Brigitte Poupart deliver remarkable performances, allowing viewers to empathize with their respective perspectives.

A Cinematographic Marvel

The cinematography of Bootlegger, crafted by Nicolas Canniccioni, captivates audiences with breathtaking visuals of the Quebec landscape. Scenic shots of picturesque landscapes and stunning sunrises highlight the natural beauty and isolation of the reservation. Monnet, known for her skills as a photographer, brings her expertise to the film, transforming each frame into a work of art. The environment in which the story unfolds is masterfully captured, immersing viewers in the setting and enhancing their overall cinematic experience.

A Language Divide Reflecting Social Struggles

One of Bootlegger’s greatest strengths lies in its portrayal of a social divide through the use of language. Canadian broadcast media and outsiders to the reservation predominantly speak English, while Laura and her family communicate in French. In contrast, Mani and her tribe converse in Algonquin. This linguistic dynamic underscores the collision of three worlds within Quebec. Though governed by Canada, the tribe leads its own distinct and separate existence. Quebec itself is known for its various separatist movements, further emphasizing the challenges and complexities faced by Mani’s tribe. The alcohol ban, imposed years ago under the jurisdiction of Quebec rather than national law, further exacerbates the tension.

A Thought-Provoking but Open-Ended Conclusion

Despite its many strengths, some viewers may find Bootlegger’s conclusion somewhat underwhelming. Mani and Laura never reach a full agreement, and Mani’s character arc remains unresolved. The film purposefully does not reveal the outcome of the referendum, opting to conclude at the moment of the vote. Monnet invites viewers to form their own conclusions, leaving the interpretation open-ended. There are no definitive right or wrong answers, but the film enables viewers to sympathize with one or the other based on their individual perspectives.

A Solid Depiction of Native American Life

While not revolutionary or groundbreaking in its storytelling, Bootlegger shines as a well-directed and brilliantly acted movie that sheds light on an often overlooked demographic. The film’s unanswered questions serve as a poignant reminder of the struggles faced by indigenous communities and present an opportunity for reflection and discussion. Bootlegger is certainly worth watching as an educational piece, providing valuable insights into the culture and contemporary experiences of northern Quebec. Ultimately, the film encourages viewers to contemplate the lingering questions it poses and seek their own answers.


Q: Where can I watch Bootlegger?

A: Bootlegger is available to watch on demand from November 18 to 25 as part of the National Museum of the American Indian’s 2022 Native Cinema Showcase.

Q: How can I access the Native Cinema Showcase?

A: The Native Cinema Showcase is a free online event organized by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. You can access the screenings on their official website during the designated dates.

Q: Are there subtitles available for Bootlegger?

A: Subtitles for Bootlegger may be available in multiple languages. The specific accessibility options may vary depending on the platform or streaming service through which you access the film.

Q: Is Bootlegger suitable for all age groups?

A: Bootlegger is generally appropriate for a wide audience, including individuals with a high school education. However, it is always advisable to review the film’s content or check its rating to ensure it aligns with your personal preferences and sensitivities.

Q: Are there any related films or resources I can explore?

A: The Native Cinema Showcase features a diverse lineup of movies that offer cultural insights and perspectives from various indigenous communities. Additionally, the National Museum of the American Indian provides extensive resources and educational materials on indigenous cultures, art, and history.

Q: How can I support indigenous filmmakers and storytellers?

A: Supporting indigenous filmmakers involves recognizing and amplifying their voices and stories. One way to contribute is by attending film festivals, such as the Native Cinema Showcase, that feature indigenous films. Additionally, exploring and sharing indigenous artists’ work on various platforms can help raise awareness and appreciation for their contributions to the film industry.


Bootlegger, directed by Caroline Monnet, serves as a captivating cinematic exploration of the struggles faced by marginalized groups within indigenous communities. Through its compelling narrative, breathtaking cinematography, and thought-provoking themes, the film encourages viewers to reflect on their own perceptions and engage in meaningful discussions. The Native Cinema Showcase provides an invaluable platform for showcasing the cultural richness and diversity of indigenous filmmaking, and Bootlegger stands as an exceptional contribution to this collective endeavor. As viewers immerse themselves in the world of Mani and Laura, they are invited to grapple with the complexities of identity, governance, and societal change. Ultimately, Bootlegger offers a poignant reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by indigenous communities and prompts us to strive for inclusivity, understanding, and respect.