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What to know: Saddened and yet enlightened by this coherent, narrative, documentary short film showing Joe's journey of tribulations and triumphs.
JOE BUFFALO is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
Recommended age 13-18
16 minutes
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Joe Buffalo is a great documentary that is filled with roller coaster emotions. I like that it addresses how Joe Buffalo coped with Indian Residential School system that caused so much damage to him when he was a kid. However, the prison scene and the drug scene are definitely geared for older teens and adults. It is so inspiring to learn how Joe dealt with his problems in the end, and became such a role model for others. Very inspiring!

This documentary follows an Indigenous professional skateboarder, Joe Buffalo, who survived the harsh conditions of Canada's infamous Indian Residential School system that separated him from his family. During his childhood, he dreamed of becoming a pro skater, but that was quickly put aside due to the restrictive school system he was in, which left him traumatized. The traumatic experience led him down a dark road, including bouts of addiction and prison time. However, in the end Joe Buffalo overcame the trauma and addiction to make his dream come true.

The film shows the traumatic effects of the forced isolation of a young child from his family and how it affected him, which is very important to learn. I like that Joe Buffalo never gave up on his dream of becoming a pro skateboarder even after all he went through. A highlight was the flashback moments, which give the viewer an idea what Joe has in his memory bank.

The scenes where the residential school is shown impressed me as it displays the awful conditions of that school. The close-up shot showing Joe in tears after thinking about his past impressed me greatly and it was clear that the production crew was really thoughtful in handling it. The location is a rural town in Canada, some parts of which are painted with Indigenous patterns, which supports the idea of its Indigenous population. The music that plays when he is reflecting about his past is very heavy hearted and appropriate. My favorite part of the film is when Joe Buffalo realizes that he needs to confront his past and overcome it if he wants to redeem himself. He also realizes that sobering up helped him find his way back to skateboarding and redeem his dream of becoming pro and he makes a pro version of a skateboard to pay tribute to his grandfather.

The message I took away from this film is that it's never too late to correct something. You should be aware that it contains profanity, has inappropriate behavior, shows kids doing risky things that kids might imitate, shows smoking and drug use, and has some profanity (including the F word). This film really expounds on the effects of trauma on children and its long term effects.

I give Joe Buffalo 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults.

At a time when the abuses of Indian Residential School are in the news and skateboarding became an Olympic event, this is very current and relevant. But, the overall message about the effects of abuse is timeless. Reviewed by Tom W., KIDS FIRST!

Joe Buffalo has enormous appeal. This 14 minute film tells the story of Joe Buffalo's early, difficult life, when he was taken away from his parents at age 11 and sent to and Indian Residential School in Canada. Yet he overcomes his upset and depression by becoming a world class skateboarder, not to mention a person who eventually confronts his problems head on - no excuses - and puts his life back on track. This story and the action shots of skateboarding, absolutely thrilled me.

Joe Buffalo is a Canada Cree native who overcame his painful residential school childhood and became a professional skateboarder. Cinematographically, with Joe's narration, the film shows the audience Joe's fears and rage while at the school. But he re-emerges into Canadian society using skateboarding as his way to make friends and make a little money. Soon, Joe realizes he is heading down the wrong path. He isn't caring for his health, he's drinking and smoking and has nightmarish flashbacks. He narrates that he had three overdoses due to his trauma. Then he turns his life around and the discomfort I felt watching the film turns to excitement.

The gorgeous cinematography - often drone shots - of buffalo and the Canadian plains, juxtapose with his fast paced skateboarding tricks, giving the viewer a shared sense of urgency which is inside of Joe himself. He has to recover or parish to heal from his painful past and rise above it. The music underscores the emotions following his ups and downs throughout the film and is indispensable. The director takes extra care to create thoughtful transitions with the editing and music, as evidenced by the seamless feel of the film.

The message of the film is to take charge of your life. Don't be a victim, even if you have been victimized for your race, your gender, your economic status or your religion. Stick to your own mission once you find it and fulfill your dream! Joe does it. So can you. You should be aware that this film uses profanity twice and briefly shows drug and alcohol use.

I give Joe Buffalo 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. Reviewed by Nancy K., KIDS FIRST!

I was saddened and yet enlightened by this coherent, narrative, documentary short film.

The dream of skateboarding and a recapturing of foundational indigenous traditions are woven into a social justice narrative from the childhood to adult life of Joe Buffalo.

Joe Buffalo, of the Maskwacis Cree Nation, is an indigenous skateboard legend and a survivor of Canada's tragic Indian Residential School system.

Despite the role of outsiders who hijacked and forced him and people of the Maskwacis Cree Nation onto bumpy, unpaved paths of destruction, Joe Buffalo discovers "roadmaps" for success scribed from past traditions of his indigenous roots. He used these roadmaps to reclaim the will and determination that would be needed to envision and reach a destination filled with healing, redemption, hope and a renewed life following a traumatic childhood.

The story of Joe Buffalo is a journey of tribulations and triumphs beautifully narrated with cinematic accompaniments, traditional drumming and indigenous melodies, yielding reflections about childhood and family memories; and a life filled with troublesome potholes, emotional detours into hopelessness and trauma, as well as an eventual victorious destination at this time of his life's journey.

Mild profanity is occasionally heard in the narrative but focused primarily on emphasizing the horrendous impacts of the shame, doubt, inner demons, and frustrations experienced during this journey.

I strongly recommend this film and any related viewer's guides designed to provide resource information, for teachers, parents and children. I give this 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to18, plus adults. Reviewed by Ed G.,

Reviewed by Ed G., KIDS FIRST!

Joe Buffalo is an Indigenous skateboard legend. He's also a survivor of Canada's notorious Indian Residential School system. Following a traumatic childhood and decades of addiction, Joe must face his inner demons to realize his dream of turning pro.

"This stunning portrait takes the viewer into the mind of Indigenous skateboard legend Joe Buffalo. With raw honesty and powerful storytelling, the film takes no shortcuts in exploring the generational trauma associated with Canada's Indian Residential Schools and the wounds brought on by white colonialism. Joe takes us through his own battles with isolation, anger and addiction, but his story is ultimately one of strength and resilience, woven together by his love of skateboarding. A powerful reminder that history does not simply melt away or get swept aside, but instead is ingrained in the bedrock of today challenging us to learn it. In his own words, "If I can make it happen given the circumstances of how I was raised, then there is hope out there."

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