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The Independent Critic

Lani Cerveris-Cataldi, Hannah Marijon, Curtis Caldwell, Luna Mengine, Patrick Conner
Orko Mukherjee
58 Mins.


 "Turtle Island" a Deeply Moving, Important Film 

From the moment you meet Irene (Hannah Marijon) in writer/director Orko Mukherjee's immensely moving Turtle Island, you'll fall in love with her and you won't be able to help but lament the journey she undergoes in this passionate, intelligent film from a first-time filmmaker who financed the effort himself and assembled what is obviously an amazingly talented, committed cast and crew from the Pittsburgh area. 

Turtle Island tells the story of Irene, an orphaned teen who struggles in the home of her Native American guardian and falls in with the wrong crowd and runs away. 10 years later, she returns with her daughter and begins to follow a better path. 

Featuring a sublime weaving together of indigenous culture and contemporary social issues, Turtle Island effectively wrestles with such issues as domestic trafficking and, yes, the treatment of the indigenous community in this country. The film soars on the strength of Marijon's enlightened, deeply felt performance and an ensemble cast that towers across the board including Lani Cerveris-Cataldi as Andrea, Luna Mengine as Anna, Patrick Conner as Harold, and Curtis Caldwell's uncomfortable yet spot-on turn as Brock. 

Ian Altenbaugh's lensing is impeccable throughout, richly immersive and occasionally tense without resorting to unnecessary histrionics. Chauncey James's sound mix deserves major kudos for rising above the film's modest budget, while Nathaniel J. Fitzgerald's production design and art direction are both top notch and Danielle Volkar's costume design is culturally appropriate and character appropriate. The film's music by Birds of Norway is the perfect touch to capture the film's dramatic yet meditative spirit. 

Mukherjee tells an important story here and tells it incredibly well with his entire cast and crew working together to bring it all to life. While the festival circuit is temporarily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic here in the U.S., one can only hope that Turtle Island finds the audience it so definitely deserves. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic