Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk is a now an executive producer for a film about a residential school survivor.
The Vancouver-made film Joe Buffalo was released earlier this month.
The short film chronicles the life of Joe Buffalo, who survived residential school and went on to become a professional skateboarder. The first to do so.
“It was no straight shot trajectory, there was a lot of suffering,” said Buffalo in an interview with CTV News Vancouver.
At the age of 11, Buffalo was taken from his home on the Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, Alberta and placed in a residential school.
“You’re put in these institutions and it’s like a prison for kids, man,” Buffalo said.
The movie, made by filmmaker Amar Chebib, highlights Buffalo’s struggles with intergenerational trauma and his battle to become sober.
“Pre-contact native people, we didn’t know what alcohol was, we didn’t know what drugs were, that was brought to us,” said Buffalo.
“I thought I was a write-off, I thought the alcohol had fully consumed me and that drugs was the only way to go, why not just numb the pain?”
Buffalo is now sober but says it’s a battle he’ll fight forever.
“Just cause I don’t drink alcohol doesn’t mean I’m not an alcoholic, just because I kicked dope doesn’t mean I’m not an addict,” he said.
The story was powerful enough to catch the eye of the sport’s most iconic figure. Hawk wasn’t involved in the making of the film but came on board afterwards.
“He plucks out all the positive in skateboarding in the world and he shines a light on it,” Buffalo said.
“He’s a saint in my eyes.”
The film can be watched for free online on the New Yorker Youtube channel.