The compelling, realistic and sometimes dark television drama Blackstone looks at a fictional community relevant not only to Aboriginals, but to all Canadians.
At its heart, Blackstone is a community dealing with problems and issues faced not just on reservations, but regularly in all communities across Canada.
“We are creating a series to impact as many viewers as possible. The show is accessible because it focuses on how a community reacts to problems,” Ron E. Scott, director and lead writer for Blackstone, told The Journal.
Thematically, the show mixes common personal challenges such as alcoholism and relationship struggles with Aboriginal concerns such as environmental sustainability, identity politics and housing to attract a wider audience.
“There is a universality in human nature; we wanted to create a show that touches on real issues. Blackstone was never about entering a fantasy world,” said Scott.
The show, originally developed as a two-hour movie, was picked up by Scott who saw the possibilities to turn it into a weekly one-hour program on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).
“The show is meant to entertain, we did not want to make a documentary about life on a reserve,” said Scott.
The initial first season has its fair share of sex, murder and other mature themes, beginning with fictional Blackstone First Nation, a suffering community. Corruption and mismanagement at the hands of Chief Andy Fraser causes friction throughout the series. Although the themes can be difficult, the overall story focuses on reconciliation in its portrayal of Aboriginal people fighting to better their lives.
Blackstone delivers enough twists and turns to keep viewers engaged long enough to stay with the series, although dialogue between characters can sometimes be difficult to follow and, at times, the plot seems a bit stretched out.
The show was nationally recognized when Cree actor Michelle Thrush took home a 2011 Gemini award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role. The show also picked up a second Gemini award in 2011 for Best Title Sequence.
In addition to Canada, the first season of Blackstone has been well received and shown on Maori Television in New Zealand. It is also expected to be shown in the United States, as a distribution deal with a California-based company was announced in early September.