VIFF: Bones of Crows

We cannot go back in time; we can only move forward and learn from our past for a brighter tomorrow.

After world premiering at TIFF earlier this month, Marie Clements’ poignant film “Bones of Crows” opened the Vancouver International Film Festival last night as the perfect lead-in for Truth and Reconciliation.  The director and most of the cast and crew members were in attendance.

Grace Dove as Aline Spears in “Bones of Crows”

In Canada, every September 30th now marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation which honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

Orange Shirt Day which also falls on September 30th, is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day intended to raise awareness of the individual, family and community inter-generational impacts of residential schools, and to promote the concept of “Every Child Matters”.  The orange shirt is a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.

Bones of Crows

The message in this commanding film which was written, produced and directed by Marie Clements; a Canadian Métis playwright, performer, director, producer and screenwriter (founding artistic director of Urban Ink Productions) was powerful and not to be overlooked.

Inspired by true events, Bones of Crows tells the life story of a Cree woman named Aline Spears (strikingly performed by Canadian actor Grace Dove) through varying stages of her life.  From a child taken from her parents to an 85 year of woman who confronts a former abuser from the church.  A line that stuck with me from the film is “parents don’t always know what is best for their children – that’s why we should leave it up to the government and the church.”  REALLY???

The film is intended to be disconcerting and that, it is.  It is a must-see for all so that we may learn from the past so we can move forward mindfully

Here is further description taken from the VIFF Programme:

VIFF 2022 Opening Film

In these troubled and lopsided times, we need our storytellers to help us understand our inheritance, be it pain or privilege, and to lay the intellectual and emotional groundwork not only for reconciliation, but for reparation and restoration. Vancouver-born Dene/Métis writer-director Marie Clements (whose previous films The Road Forward and Red Snow have been part of VIFF’s year-round and festival programming) squares up to the challenge with this bold, necessarily harrowing tale of oppression and resilience which spans the greater part of the 20th century.

Aline Spears (played at different ages by Grace Dove, Summer Testawich, and Carla Rae) is a happy, gifted child, until she and her siblings are removed to a residential school. The scars of that experience will run deep through the remainder of their days, though it will not be the only time that official government policy will act as an instrument of abuse and trauma. Despite this, Aline enlists in WWII, where, ironically, her fluency in Cree becomes a national asset. The reward for her service is yet more anguish and struggle.

This is a tough film, but it has epic ambition, deep-rooted conviction, anger, and urgency. Clements is not afraid to make provocative and important connections, and she marshals an outstanding cast of Indigenous actors with care and compassion.

This program 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.

About VIFF | viff.org

Founded in 1982, the Greater Vancouver International Film Festival Society is a not-for-profit cultural society and federally registered charitable organization that operates the internationally acclaimed Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) and the year-round programming at the VIFF Centre. VIFF produces screenings, talks, conferences and events that act as a catalyst for the community to discover the creativity and craft of storytelling on screen.

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