Marie Clements grabs your attention with the opening scenes of her new series version of Bones of Crows (premiering September 20 on CBC, CBC Gem and APTN). A pyramid of caribou skulls are stacked high as crows circle overhead. It is a not so subtle symbol of the decades of horror, abuse and genocide that took place in Canada in the wake of the residential school system.
A feature length version of Bones of Crows traveled across the country last year, both in festivals and through a theatrical release, as well as playing in indigenous communities.
Much of the film deals with the horrors and the traumatic impact of the residential school system imposed on native communities throughout Canada over much of its first century. During those years. with the full backing of the government, indigenous school children were snatched from their families by religious orders determined to erase the customs, language and culture of the First Nations’ people. At a time when statues of early Canadian politicians and educators are being toppled, many wondered whether Canada was truly ready for such a harrowing awakening as a movie and television experience.
The response to the film version gave Clements hope.
“What we really were experiencing,” says Clements, “is that people did want to see it, they did want to talk about it, they wanted to have dialogue about it. I felt like we were ready as Canadians — both indigenous and non-indigenous — to speak to how [the school system issue] has impacted our shared history.”
Clements has expanded Bones of Crows with this five episode miniseries version. The writer, director and producer has cast well with this epic story that spans a hundred years, with Grace Dove one of three actresses who plays Cree matriarch Aline Spears, the main protagonist confronting her traumatic past.
Also starring in the series is Phillip Forest Lewitski, Remy Girard and, as a very nasty nun, Karine Vanasse. Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Michelle Thrush and Glen Gould round out the cast.
Clements, a Metis filmmaker based in B.C., has been an award-winning storyteller in many genres, including stage, screen and television. In this podcast conversation conducted a few weeks ago, we talk about the depiction of pioneering Canadian politicians in Bones of Crows, and whether current revisions and repremantations go far enough when it comes to setting the record straight about the historic plight of the First Nations.
We also talk about her filmmaking influences growing up, including the game changing directors from the ’70s. Finally, Clements shares her favourite all-time TV theme song pick, from a series that took its own hard look at history.
To listen to this episode, simply click on the white arrow in the blue dot, above.