Joe Buffalo is a short film that Amar Chebib directed, and it follows Joe Buffalo, an Indigenous skateboard legend. He is also a survivor of Canada’s notorious Indian Residential School system. Following a traumatic childhood and decades of drug and alcohol abuse, Joe must face the inner demons that tell him that he isn’t enough or that his dreams aren’t enough to realize his dream of turning pro and that he is deserving of being a pro skateboarder. It’s about finding a way out of the darkness and into the light to find passion and dreams.
Even though it is a short film, it is powerful in the message that it is sending to viewers. Trauma comes in different ways for people, but their trauma has been experienced through generations and generations for the Indigenous people. Not only did Joe experience the same trauma as his family before him, who went to the Residential School system, so did his mother and father and his siblings. Trying to move forward is the most challenging part; to move past trauma feels at times impossible to overcome, and until Joe realized that he could move past it, he was struck in a continuous battle with addiction.
Chebib does an excellent job of completing the circle, meaning that there wasn’t anything that should have been in the short film that wasn’t. Transitioning from scene to scene was well-edited. It flowed very nicely with Joe narrating. The short film had everything needed, like pulling the emotion out of a viewer and balancing the trauma yet giving the viewer a nice break with Joe riding his skateboard. It was like starting off going through a dark tunnel but eventually getting through to the end, and the light shines through. It leaves me feeling that through the dark times, Joe will find a happy ending and a fulfilling career as a pro skateboarder.
Joe Buffalo doesn’t sway from the trauma and the bad decisions that he made in his life. He plows right on that it gives viewers all the candid and gritty parts of himself. He goes into great detail about the pain and suffering he went through as a child and what he did to bury it deep down. In the film, Joe describes his pain as he is putting his misery in a jar, and there is only so much that the jar can hold onto until it explodes. It only when it gets to the point of rock bottom that something has to either change or its end. The silver lining is when it gets to rock bottom, there is nothing you can do but go up from there. There is no lower level than rock bottom. Joe and Chebib make an excellent point of making that a reality in the short film.
Chebib also did an excellent job of capturing the pain, the anger, and the hurt in his eyes. There is nothing like a good pair of eyes to see deep into the soul. Without the emotion in his eyes, the story wouldn’t have been all that special. The story means more when I can look into their eyes and see the trauma. It’s much better in person, but it is golden when it can be captured so well in a movie. I think watching the healing process and trying to break the cycle of abuse was empowering and raw. It reminds me that the healing journey is much more critical than just arriving at the point of healing. Why or how they achieve healing and forgiveness is the best part because that is where the fighter shines through.
Joe Buffalo is a story about fighting back against the demons and believing in dreams because nobody else will fight hard for them. Joe finds happiness again through his skateboarding to channel the trauma into something productive and meaningful to him. Joe teaches anyone watching his short film that all the pain and suffering he went through as a child and growing up and coming out on top of it can be too.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars
Anyone can relate to Joe Buffalo and his story, and that is what I enjoyed most about the short film. I think what makes any movie great is when a viewer can relate and feel emotionally connected. From beginning to end, I was in awe, and as a fighter myself, I saw the fighter in him through a TV screen on my computer. Even though I enjoyed watching this film, I did feel like this was a one-and-done kind of movie in that it doesn’t need to be watched more than once. If you enjoyed watching this film like I did and felt that you are driving in darkness and feeling alone, then this is the movie for you. If not, then who am I to make you watch it?