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#HotDocs23 Review: Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun

May 4, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival runs from April 27th to May 7th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Logan Red Crow is a young Blackfoot woman from Siksika First Nation in Alberta, who grew up helping with the horses on her grandfather’s ranch, and has been determined to compete in Indian Horse Relay competitions ever since her father taught her how to ride.

In her documentary Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun, director Banchi Hanuse begins following Logan, who first competed in a relay at fifteen, as she prepares to join the men’s relay at the Calgary Stampede. Logan wants to compete in the relays, as opposed to just in the “lady races” where they ride side-saddle in dresses and only do a single lap, but with no women’s relay teams in Canada at the time, she must compete with the males.

If the themes can get slightly repetitive and the film feels a bit long, even at 89 minutes, Before the Sun is an inspiring story about perseverance. The film shows Logan’s determination to become a champion rider, including getting up at four in the morning to start training, and working with her brother to perfect her switch-offs between horses after each lap. While her father remains supportive of her, he would also rather she focus more on school, which adds a bit of tension. The film also highlights the deep bond that Logan shares with the horses, musing that she gets along better with them than with people.

One of the most impressive aspects of the film is the beautiful cinematography by Ben Giesbrecht and Luke Connor, including some gorgeous drone shots of the vast land and horses running through it. The race scenes themselves are shot and edited like a sports movie, and should delight any fans of the sport.

Screenings: Saturday, April 29th, 2:30 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 7; Wednesday, May 3rd, 3:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2. Tickets can be purchased here, and the film will also be streaming online across Canada from May 5th to 9th.

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