The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open has won the Toronto Film Critics Association’s Rogers Best Canadian Film Award, an honour that comes with a $100,000 prizeLet’s spotlight this drama co-directed and co-written by Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. 

Looking back on the film’s journey, after premiering at the 2019 Berlinale, it’s earned the Grand Prix Focus Quebec/Canada at the Festival du nouveau cinéma; an honourable mention for Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival; and was chosen for TIFF’s Canada’s Top 10.  

Festival presence aside, this Canada-Norway coproduction is reaching the hearts of audiences worldwide, and it was named a Critic’s Pick by the New York Times, not to mention scooping up a deal with Ava DuVernay’s collective ARRAY Releasing.  

Story and themes 

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open was inspired by a true experience of Tailfeathers’ when she met a young woman in East Vancouver some years ago. As she explains in the video interview below, the film honours that woman’s story.  

The story begins when two Indigenous women from different backgrounds meet on the street after an assault. More deeply, as Hepburn says in the video:

it deals with violence against women, it deals with Indigenous women’s sovereignty of the body and motherhood.” Kathleen Hepburn 

As indicated by its title, the film is nuanced with an exploration of intergenerational trauma as expressed through the body, particularly through the “lived experience of women” and motherhood. In fact, the title, as explained by Elle-Maija Tailfeathers in the video below, comes from an essay penned by Cree author Billy-Ray Belcourt.  

The essay touches on the ways in which the colonial legacy and trauma is deeply embodied and expresses itself through the body, and we felt that title specifically spoke to the lived experience of women, themes of motherhood, and also the past we inherit from those before us.”  Elle-Maija Tailfeathers

So where can you see it? 

At home in Canada, it is now screening in select cities, will be available on the streaming service CBC Gem later this yearMeanwhile, audiences in the U.S, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand can view it on Netflix.  

Catch our interview with the filmmakers