Kawenniiohstha (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs)
"Kawenniiohstha (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs)," This Place, directed by V.T. Nayani, 2023, (Newfest)

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General Information

Director(s) V.T. Nayani
Screenplay By Kawennahere Devery Jacobs, Golshan Abdmoulaie, V.T. Nayani
Date Released (Film Festival – NewFest) October 12, 2023
Genre(s) Drama

Romance

Young Adult

LGBT+

Film Length 1 Hour 26 Minutes
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Characters and Cast
Kawenniiohstha Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs
Malai Priya Guns
Wari Brittany Leborgne
Ahrun Alex Joseph
Behrooz Ali Momen

Content Rating Explanation

“This Place” contains:

  • Dialog: Some Cursing
  • Violence: N/A
  • Sexual Content: Nothing is shown on screen but could be implied
  • Miscellaneous: Drinking and Smoking

Film Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

Kawenniiohstha and Malai are at a bit of a crossroads in life, with many options. Kawenniiohstha wants to pursue writing and believes she needs to go to Toronto to pursue her career, and as she does that, she would like to meet the father she never knew. Her mom, Wari, would rather her stay close, for she doesn’t want her daughter to abandon her and her people, the Mohawk nation, in finding who she is off the reservation.

For Malai, the challenge is that her brother, Ahrun, is handling all of the bills while she goes to school, and she recognizes that isn’t fair. Yet, at the same time, while tempted by graduate school for math, she is pushed to be the sole person to bear the weight of their father dying, as their father and Ahrun have unspoken issues.

Because of Kawenniiohstha losing her notebook of draft writing and pieces, and Malai finding it, that is how they come together. But with so much going on in their individual personal lives, there is a question of whether they have the time and capacity for each other.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Kawenniiohstha

Kawenniiohstha (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs)
“Kawenniiohstha (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs),” This Place, directed by V.T. Nayani, 2023, (Newfest)

Half-Mohawk and half-Iranian, Kawennioshtha was raised Mohawk, with no knowledge of her father or being Iranian until she discovered her father’s photo and pressed the issue. Now, as a writer trying to find their voice, she seeks out the man who she never knew to see if he will embrace her, reject her, and be anything beyond half of her DNA.

Malai

Malai (Priya Guns)
“Malai (Priya Guns),” This Place, directed by V.T. Nayani, 2023, (Newfest)

With her mother passing on and her father dying, Malai relies heavily on one of her professors to give her parental guidance, as her older brother Ahrun is focused on sacrificing his youth so she can reach heights he maybe cannot. This weighs on her, as school is not something she loves but is good at.

Wari

Wari is Kawennioshtha’s mom, Behrooz’s former lover, who abandoned him to be with her people and reaffirm that she belongs to Mohawk culture.

Ahrun

Ahrun is Malai’s brother who has issues with their father and mainly works throughout the day to support the household.

Behrooz

An Iranian immigrant to Canada, Behrooz escaped the war to find peace, and while he also found love in Wari, unfortunately, she ran towards a war while he was running from one, and she decided not to allow him to even try to make it work.

Review

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

Notable Performances or Moments

Addressing How Culture Can Get In The Way Of A Relationship

As an American, it can often feel like the only time there are films and shows about interracial couples it is from cultures that can identify as Black or White, or are seen as such in American society. So to have something different, with Malai being Tamil and Kawenniiohstha being Mohawk and Iranian, you don’t just get different faces or even language, but also stories.

Which is something “This Place” does well in not making Kawenniiohstha and Malai’s cultures dressing. At their hearts, and even Wari’s, when she talks about Kawenniiohstha’s father, Behrooz, there is more than an acknowledgement about where someone’s family came from, but how it has shaped them. Malai’s family is from Sri Lanka, and there is this longing to see her homeland, but because of the civil war between her people and the ethnic majority, the safety and chances of doing so aren’t high.

Add in not being refugee status but still finding home in what is a foreign country, and there are a multitude of conflicts, even before you go into her relationship with her father and brother, and the question of what she’ll do next in life.

Then, with Kawenniiohstha, it is even more layered and complicated. Her dad fled a war in Iran, and her mom went back to the Mohawk reservation, seemingly due to the Oka Crisis (Read More: CBC) and from what it appears, as an outsider, he couldn’t join her, and with her wanting to solidify being Mohawk, she had to sacrifice any sense of otherness, including in who she loved. Thus leading to Kawenniiohstha knowing Mohawk culture and language like the back of her hand, and yet being confused why certain features of hers felt foreign.

It all brings a wonderful complexity to the idea of interracial relationships that feels often glossed over to present the idea that race and culture aren’t interlinked, and history doesn’t complicate things, even if your cultures were never in direct conflict.

Highlights

Romance Came Second

Love conquers all is an adage that is easy to romanticize, for we all would like to think that our feelings, these intangible things, have the power to shape and shift the world. It makes for many a romantic story, and for some, love does conquer all. However, conquering is a funny word; it usually means some form of destruction.

But, in the case of “This Place,” with it being ingrained how much conquering and war have shaped everyone’s lives, there is no conquering. There is a recognition that the individual needs to love themselves and be whole before they can offer anything to another, and sometimes, in the pursuit of being whole, they may not have the space or capacity for someone else. Such was the case for Wari, regarding Behrooz, and there was the chance that Kawenniiohstha figuring herself out and Malai doing the same, they could be a new generation repeating the same decisions.

Yet, one thing “This Place” does, which a lot of romance films don’t, is that they don’t make the need to take a break, reevaluate, or anything like that dramatic. There isn’t a huge blow-up, reconciliation, and the generic story structure that seems to be in at least 70% of films that qualify as romances. No. Instead, you get two people, probably in their mid-20s at the latest, who get it. The timing is bad, but the feelings are there, and there is hope that, as time goes on, maybe there is a chance to pick up where things left off and continue.

Who Is This For?

Those who want a subtle LGBTQ+ romance that acknowledges culture, how that creates conflict and doesn’t present the idea that love conquers all, but if valued, it can endure.

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Motherland – Fort Salem: In its third season, features indigenous characters and the struggle between life on the reservations as witches, with the fight of larger countries looming over them, and the show as a whole features prominent LGBT characters and storylines
  2. Reservation Dogs: So, we didn’t get past season 1 because of our time management, but it still remains one of the best (albeit without any notable competition Stateside) opportunities to see Indigenous Americans who live and experience reservation life, with a focus on young people.
  3. Rhymes for Young Ghouls: This was the first film we ever saw that starred someone Indigenous and focused on their stories. It isn’t a comedy like “Reservation Dogs,” but it is definitely something that sticks with you.

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.


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This Place (2023) – Overview

Summary

Newfest, like all film festivals, feels like a palate cleanse, and while, yes, we pick and choose amongst their already curated list what to watch, “This Place” was the perfect one to start off our marathon of films and shorts, and I can only hope that the succeeding productions meet the quality of this film.

Overall
87%
87%
  • Addressing How Culture Can Get In The Way Of A Relationship - 89%
    89%
  • Romance Came Second - 84%
    84%
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User Review
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Highlight(s)

  • Romance Came Second
  • Addressing How Culture Can Get In The Way Of A Relationship

Disputable

  • N/A

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