Rocks at Whiskey Trench (2000): 5 out of 10: Rocks at Whiskey Trench tells both the story of the horrific incident when French Canadians pelted women, children and the elderly with rocks as they were fleeing their reservation as well as coverage of the entire Oka Crisis.
The Good: The footage of French Canadians with mullets throwing large rocks at a caravan of fleeing native Canadians really speaks for itself. It is a harrowing picture and whatever faults the documentary has, those scenes are simply unforgettable.
The documentary is populated with a lot of talking head interviews with the Mohawks at Oka, and there are some very nice stories that come out of these interviews. You really get a sense of the people involved (at least on one side).
The Bad: Documentaries are hard to review because you have two separate factors that can come into conflict. How interesting/important is the subject matter and how good is the documentary. The subject matter, in this case, could not be more interesting, but the documentary as a whole does it a bit of a disservice.
Imagine the movie Jaws if the shark had been killed off after an hour. That is the problem Rocks at Whiskey Trench runs into. The documentary focuses on this one incident so much (Understandable so) that when it pivots halfway through the film to the rest of the story (And some long-winded detours) a viewer can understandably be a bit disoriented.
The movie leaves out (or at least soft-pedals) some fairly important facts, particularly the fact a local police officer was killed in the initial standoff that started this siege. Not a small factor in the local and eventually national government’s overreaction.
The Ugly: The description of the movie states that it is available in both English and French. The version I saw was in both English and French, apparently at random and without reason. Even using subtitles was haphazard as the subtitles sometimes interfered with the subtitles the movie itself used, while another time you would simply be in the wilderness while the narrator drones on in Québécois French.
In conclusion: Local radio hosts like Gilles Proulx inflamed passions claiming the Mohawks couldn’t even speak French while other radio hosts directed crowds to attack the natives and their barricades. This “tall trees” style propaganda is very briefly mentioned in the documentary, and one would think that the hatred and propaganda on the French Canadians’ side should get more of a look at. Instead, we get a half-hour program on how the Mercer bridge was constructed and honestly one too many talking head interviews describing the exact same event the exact same way.
Such an amazing story, and yet one feels that Rocks at Whiskey Trench isn’t up to the task despite such wonderful access.