The Williams Lake Film Club is excited to announce that Bones of Crows, the new feature film by Marie Clements, will be presented ahead of its theatrical release in a free community screening at the Paradise Cinemas on the evening of Thursday Dec. 8. The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and opened this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, is an ambitious and darkly psychological drama that spans over a century, and grapples with the multi-generational legacy of the residential school experience.
This is the Dene/Metis director’s second dramatic feature film – her first was Red Snow in 2017. Clements is already well known in the Canadian theatre scene, and is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. In Bones of Crows, she culled from family experience to create the film’s protagonist, Aline Spears. As Clements’ explains, “the primary inspiration for Aline came from my mother and aunties. They were born in the same time period as Aline and their experiences guided me in her creation, which was a great touchstone to have as I wanted to see what life looked like for a modern Indigenous woman in the 1940s, the possibilities that existed for her, and the realities she had to overcome. Like Aline, my aunt Rosemary was in the air force and we had all these pictures of her in uniform. She’s a very striking woman, and it was beautiful to see that and to imagine her being part of the war and part of something bigger” (Set the Tape, Oct 7, 2022).
We follow the storyline of the character Aline as she is forcibly separated from her family along with her siblings, and made to attend residential school as a child. As an adult, she enrolls into the military and serves as a code talker in World War II. We return with her after the war to Canada, where she works and raises her family, but remains haunted by painful and traumatic memories until she begins to confront her abusers.
The lead role is primarily played by Grace Dove (The Revenant, Alaska Daily), a Secwepemc actor from the Canim Lake Band/Tsq’escenemc who grew up in Prince George, while Summer Testawich plays the young Aline, and actor Carla-Rae plays Aline her elder years. Clements notes that in casting the role, she was looking for the “inner strength, perseverance, and will to survive” (Set The Tape, Oct 7, 2022). The film boasts a large and stellar cast, and includes a cameo from renowned documentarian Alanis Obomsawin. We also follow the life course of other characters in the film including Alyssa Wapanatahk (Peter Pan) as Aline’s sister Perseverance, and Phillip Forest Lewitski (Wildwood) as her husband Adam.
The film is shot in English, with key scenes spoken in Cree and Ayajuthem. Much of the film was shot in the interior of B.C., with crucial scenes filmed on location at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The film often incorporates the use of flashbacks and in using this technique, Clements says she sought to unpack “…the idea that we are living in the present but are affected by the lives and trauma not only of our own personal battles of survival, but those of our ancestors…we come to understand memory not just as a flashback but as an emotional reaction triggered by a present one” (CBC Arts Sept. 12 2022).
Clements explains that, “artistically, my hope was to execute an unapologetic vision, a cinematic experience that is second to none. We committed to bringing together the brightest minds and strongest hearts — leading Indigenous artists and actors with leading non-Indigenous artists and actors, to tell a shared story that is uniquely Canadian, undeniably Indigenous and universally human” (CBC Arts Sept 12 2022).
Bones of Crows contains scenes that may distress some viewers, especially those who have experienced harm, abuse, violence, and/or intergenerational trauma due to colonial practices.
Support is available 24 hours a day for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and for those who may be triggered by content dealing with residential schools, child abuse, emotional trauma, and racism. The national Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.
The Bones of Crows community tour has been made possible through the generous support of Rogers, I Love First Peoples (ILFP), Central Mountain Air, and Pacific Coastal Airlines. The film screens Dec. 8 at the Paradise Cinemas at 7 p.m. with tickets available at the door starting from 6:15 p.m. This event is free. Please come early to ensure you get a good seat.