Screenwriter/director Marie Clements says every Indigenous person who worked on her residential school drama “Bones of Crows” has their own family story of residential school and that brought deeper meaning to each day’s shoot.
The historical saga debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival over the weekend, and is set to open the Vancouver International Film Festival on Sept. 29.
It recounts decades of systemic abuse against Indigenous Peoples as seen through the eyes of a Cree woman who survives residential school, is sent to war, and is haunted by painful memories until she begins to confront her abusers.
The Vancouver-born Dene/Métis filmmaker Clements says she knows it’s been difficult for many Canadians to confront the painful history of Indigenous Peoples, and she hopes her sweeping drama can help. For Indigenous audiences, she hopes it offers “some relief” to see their story told.
The largely Indigenous cast is led by Grace Dove and includes Graham Greene, Lorne Cardinal and a cameo by veteran documentary maker Alanis Obomsawin.
“Bones of Crows” screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday. The Toronto International Film Festival wraps Sunday.
“Every single Indigenous person that worked on this film — crew or performer — has their own story, their own family story of residential school,” Clements said during a round of media interviews.
“So that kind of gives it a deeper meaning when we come to set and know this is what we’re doing today. And we’re going to go get it. Not just for ourselves, because we’re driven that way anyway as artists, but for our families and for the truth.”
Clements says it’s important to examine things that are unpleasant, discuss them and address them.
“I think, strangely in the world, there’s still people that don’t know about residential schools, don’t know that it was a government policy, and that it was, you know, 150 years in the making,” says Clements.
“We’re still trying to get to the truth. And I think that takes a long time in this country for people to understand what that means.”
—Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press