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Award-winning film Café Daughter from Mohawk writer-director Shelley Niro to stream

After a limited theatrical release throughout Canada, award-winning Mohawk writer-director Shelley Niro’s latest film Café Daughter will be released to a wider audience through streaming and video-on-demand platforms May 7.

The film is an adaptation of Kenneth T Williams’ one woman play Café Daughter. While reading the play, Niro said she instantly felt connected with the main character, Yvette Wong, and wanted to protect her.

The play and film are based on the life of Chinese/Cree neuroscientist, scholar, feminist and retired Canadian senator, Lillian Eva Quan Dyck. Growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1960s, Dyck struggled against racism.

She aspired to become a doctor and healer but was held back in school despite her aptitude. She struggled too with her own identity, told by her mother, a residential school survivor from George Gordon First Nation, to not reveal her Cree ancestry for fear of discrimination.

Shelley Niro and Dorothy Christian at community screening in Vancouver

Niro said it was an easy decision when she was approached by playwright Williams and Keith Lock, a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker and executive producer of Café Daughter, to make a film adaptation of the play.

“I was really honored to be asked to do a film version of the play,” Niro said.

Dyck “is an Indigenous woman who has gone through adversarial experiences, and she's had to conquer those on her own. She's managed to really come out on top of everything. And I think that she's such a great role model for anybody. I'm just happy to be able to take that story and do [a film] with it.”

While writing the script, Niro said she managed to get Dyck’s phone number and they talked at length about Dyck’s life. Through that conversation, Niro learned Dyck had a brother, Winston Quan, a detail not mentioned in the play.

“I contacted him as well and I had a nice long conversation with him. It was really friendly, really welcoming,” Niro said.


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