Rocks at Whiskey Trench (2000) Review

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Such an amazing story

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.

My mother used to take the address labels off all her magazines before she threw them away. Presumably so that someone going through are garbage wouldn’t know where we live. This behavior is so ingrained in me no matter how illogical (I mean your address is public information and your garbage is in front of your house) that the full address label on this paper gives me the shivers.

The Good

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.

Unfortunately, the revolution, while filmed, is in standard definition and about twenty seconds long. So here is someone burning somebody in effigy.

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).

One of the better talking heads.

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.

That barbed wire seems halfhearted at best.

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.

How Rocks at Whiskey Trench depicts the Mohawk nation.

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.

Armored personal carries seem a heavy but reasoned response considering the death of a police officer and heavily armed and barricaded men.
A Submarine? Okay Canada, now you are just trolling.

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.

If you had to guess what documentary this screenshot came from, would you guess a violent uprising from the Mohawk nation because of a golf course expansion? He looks like he is introducing his two newest sister/wives.

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.

I like big boats, I cannot lie.

Such an amazing story, and yet one feels that Rocks at Whiskey Trench isn’t up to the task despite such wonderful access.

This is my favorite screenshot ever. First of all, the guy on the left is clearly cosplaying. There is no way in hell that is native Mohawk dress. Mohawks are from current day upstate New York and the St. Lawrence river area. There are about four weeks in a year you wouldn’t freeze to death in that outfit. Second of all, The Mohawk nation is known for being fierce warriors. Fierce as in dangerous and scary not fierce as in singing with my friends who are dressed as a construction worker and a cowboy.

Then we have what is possibly the most nineties thing ever. To commemorate an incident where woman and children were pelted with rocks by their fellow citizens and a man died, we have a Bart Simpson T-shirt complete with a “Don’t have a Cow” catchphrase.
One of the great puzzles of the whole incident is why the Mohawks were so bad at public relations. The inciting incident is an expansion of a golf course from 9 to 18 holes. Plus, your fighting French Canadians. Everyone hates them. It’s as if your enemies were Nazis, or Irish Travellers.
So why dress like the Bolivian Army and write Kill Them all on burned out police cars? You easily have the upper hand. Unnecessary golf course vs sacred burial land. It’s a slam dunk.
Then you block all the roads. Many a social justice movement has learned once you start blocking highways watch your public goodwill evaporate. You need public goodwill. It is how you will win. I mean Canada brought a submarine you’re not going to win the gun battle.
Plus Canada brought all these guys.
And these guys.
Plus, this guy. He looks like he knows what he is doing.
Central casting: I think we found our love interest for the Mohawk girl split between two worlds.
Central casting: I think we found our villain.
Central Casting: I think we found our comic relief.
This looks like my birthplace. Of course I was born in Derry in Northern Ireland in the late sixties, not Canada.
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