Let’s Talk Justice!

Total Running TIme: 63 mins

Curated with an audience ages 9-13 (grades 4-7) and their families in mind, Let’s Talk Justice! is full of short films whose makers, characters and communities are seeking justice. Before watching this program, brainstorm together: what are some examples from your own community where people are seeking justice? What role does filmmaking and storytelling have to play in creating a more just world? What roles and responsibilities do you have to contribute to this world?

After watching this program, reflect on how the subjects of each film and the people who created it might be seeking justice. We’ve compiled a list of resources to seek justice towards a world that is anti-racist where people of all ages are free to express their gender. A world where people have loving and mutual relationships with their families, friends, teachers, environments and ancestors.

This program consists of four stellar films that all center the experience of Canadian youth: Mahalia Melts in the Rain, Breakaway, Beauty, and Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes).

Content warning: accounts of racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia, made by filmmakers with direct lived experience.

Introductory Resources:



Christina Willings | Canada | 2017 | 23 min
English and French with English subtitles
Preview Link: https://www.nfb.ca/film/beauty/

Exploring the lives of five gender-creative kids, this thoughtful, playful, and gentle documentary is essential viewing for children and adults alike. Celebrating self-determination and acceptance, these remarkable young people invite us into their imaginations and their intimate, and sometimes challenging experiences, showing us what it really means to be human. Whether it’s dealing with bullies, explaining themselves to their parents, or navigating the uncharted waters of new relationships, Bex, Lili, Fox, Tru and Milo talk about their experiences and struggles to live in authenticity.

Themes: gender identity, bullying, relationships, family, school, gender affirmation, beyond the gender binary

Advisory: Frank, firsthand experiences of transphobic and homophobic bullying are discussed by young people.

Winner, R2R Youth Jury, Most Inspirational Short Film, 2018

Post-screening discussion:

  • What is this film about? How did you feel while watching it? What stood out to you?
  • What are some gender stereotypes? How do you feel when you notice stereotypes? When you notice bias or discrimination?
  • How does your gender identity or gender expression influence your life? How do you think that would be different for someone with a different gender identity or expression?



Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes)

Amanda Strong | Canada | 2018 | 19 min
English and Ojibwe with English subtitles
Preview Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWjnYKyiUB8

Biidaaban, a young, Anishinabe, gender non-binary person, sets out to reclaim and revive the maple tree sap harvest in thier unwelcoming Ontario suburb. This ceremonial  practice of harvesting to make syrup goes back to time immemorial for the Anishinaabe people, yet traditional methods are no longer visible. Indigenous territory has been overrun by urban development, settlement and occupation, which present obstacles for the Anishinaabe to practice this traditional connection to the land. Biidaabaan can see through multiple dimensions while existing and moving in their present time and space; tracing and continuing the movements of their people and the creatures and land, as their ancestors once did. 

Who owns these maple trees? Who has the right to use them? Accompanied by a 10,000-year-old friendly shapeshifter, known as Sabe (who some call Sasquatch), surrounded by the spirits of Ghost-Caribou and Ghost-Wolf, and fused with the collective, Biidaaban must overcome their fear in order to pursue their right to tradition. In this mesmerizing short work, from acclaimed director Amanda Strong, time freezes and warps, while echoes from the past are made visible, as we remain steadfast in the present.

Themes: Indigenous sovereignty, language revitalization, friendship, land development, displacement of animal populations, reclamation of Indigenous ceremonies and practices

Winner, VIFF, Best BC Short Film, 2018
Honorable Mention, R2R Youth Jury, NFB Best Animated Short Film, 2019

Post-screening discussion:

  • What is this film about? How did you feel while watching it? What stood out to you?
  • What types of language are included in this film?
  • In Ojibwe, the word “biidaaban” can be defined as “dawn comes” or “it is daybreak.” Why do you think the filmmaker chose this name for the protagonist?
  • How is animation different from live action? What would not be possible with this film if it had been live action?
  • How does Biidaaban communicate with body language? With words? With silence?
  • Canada’s Indigenous Screen Office describes their values as Honesty, Truth, Humility, Love, Wisdom, Courage, Respect. How did these values appear in Biidaaban?

Activity: Write a short film about your life
Breakaway is a story based on the filmmaker’s real family. Now it’s your turn to be a storyteller! Using at least three of the themes below, describe an idea for a film based on your real family:



Mahalia Melts in the Rain

Carmine Pierre-Dufour, Emilie Mannering | Canada | 2019 | 12 mins
English with no subtitles
Preview Link: Available on CBC Gem

When confronted by the white girls in her ballet class, nine-year-old Mahalia is made to feel like an outsider. In an effort to improve her confidence before picture day, her mother takes her to a salon to have her hair straightened for the very first time. Salons can represent both a safe haven and realm of personal empowerment for women, and for some women, a means of imposing dangerous beauty standards. Mahlia is both exhilarated and overwhelmed by the experience of getting her hair done, and we are invited to observe her internal journey through these uncharted waters. On picture day, when the other students pressure her to join in on their idea of fun, it becomes clear that Mahalia doesn’t enjoy the same privileges they do. By centering the perspective of a young black girl in a predominantly white space, directors Carmine Pierre-Dufour and Emilie Mannering draw our attention to the deep rooted microaggressions and double standards that Mahalia is faced with on a daily basis. An exceptional and tender film that will sit with you long after the credits roll.

Themes: bullying, anti-black racism, beauty standards, gender stereotypes, coming of age

Advisory: sensitive depictions of bullying and anti-black racism

Honorable Mention, R2R Youth Jury, Most Inspirational Short Film, 2019 

Post-screening discussion:

  • What is this film about? How did you feel while watching it? What stood out to you?
  • What did you notice was different about the locations in the film (ballet studio, hair salon, etc.)? How do you think Mahalia felt in these different locations? Why?
  • What kind of physical traits and features, or personal style, have you been told or believe are beautiful and appropriate? Why do you think that is?
  • How have you noticed racism appear in places you go and spend time? What do you think can be done about that?

Using Google and asking people you trust, write and discuss definitions for these words:




Jenny Lee-Gilmore | Canada | 2019 | 9 mins
English spoken, no subtitles

Preview Link: Available on CBC Gem

Eleven year-old Sammy, the youngest sibling in her Chinese-Canadian household is obsessed with hockey. Inspired by her idol, Barry Wong, the first professional player of Chinese descent, she dreams of playing for a Vancouver team someday. However, her responsibilities at home and annoyingly childish older brother’s bullying get in the way—not to mention hockey is mostly reserved for boys, not girls! Raising questions about the old tropes “boys will be boys” and “girls should be seen but not heard,” filmmaker Jenny Lee-Gilmore goes beyond the frustration of sibling rivalry to reveal deeper truths about how we raise boys vs. how we raise girls.

Themes: family, gender roles and expectations, sibling rivalry, racism, sport (hockey), cultural norms, race or racism, language, role models, dreams and aspirations

Advisory: A hockey coach has an overtly racist interaction with a young girl.

Official Selection, R2R 2020 (cancelled due to covid)

Post-screening discussion:

  • What is this film about? How did you feel while watching it? What stood out to you?
  • What was stopping Sammy from realizing her dream to become a hockey player? 
  • How is  Sammy  treated differently than her brother? How does that make you feel?
  • Can you think of other examples either in the past or currently in which people or communities are excluded from certain activities? Who is excluding who in these examples? 

Activity: Write a short film about your life
Breakaway is a story based on the filmmaker’s real family. Now it’s your turn to be a storyteller! Using at least three of the themes below, describe an idea for a film based on your real family:



Program developed by: Tammy Bannister, R2R Director of Programming
Resource developed by: Alysha Seriani, R2R Mentor and Youth Educator

Produced with input from: Kevan Anthony Cameron, Tara Crawford, Bridget Umbar, Renzie Parsad and his sons, and feedback from R2R’s Senior Youth Jury

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