Mandatory viewing in Canada: Bones of Crows feature film about Indigenous residential schools in theatres

Image provided by Kate Parkes at Elevation Pictures

Bones of Crows: Forced into residential school, Aline Spears is plunged into a fight for survival that shapes her family for generations

On Friday, June 2nd, 2023, a feature film premiered in Canadian theatres called Bones of Crows, depicting the true history of the residential school system. This is an important film for Canadians, especially Indigenous, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit. 

"Unfolding over 100 years, BONES OF CROWS is a feature film told through the eyes of Cree Matriarch Aline Spears as she survives a childhood in Canada’s residential school system to continue her family’s generational fight in the face of systemic starvation, racism, and sexual abuse."

film premiered in Canadian theatres called Bones of Crows, depicting the true history of the residential school system

Press images, materials & quotes curtesy of Kate Parkes at Elevation Pictures. 

This is a film the first people of this nation deserve, and although it tells Spear's story, I wholeheartedly recognize the first people of Canada are diverse, and have faced unique generational trauma. I hope this leads to more voices and stories like this told on the big screen. Here is more about the film:

"Removed from their family home and forced into Canada’s residential school system, young musical prodigy Aline and her siblings are plunged into a struggle for survival. Over the next hundred years, Aline and her descendants fight against systemic starvation, racism and sexual abuse- and to build a more just future."

"A sweeping drama grounded in historical truth, Bones of Crows weaves together underrepresented moments in Canadian and Indigenous history, including the Indigenous contributions to WW2, the ongoing cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Aline’s story enriches our understanding of the past and empowers us to address our collective future."

The world was shocked to learn of the atrocities committed to children forced into the residential school system, not to mention other systemic oppression first peoples experienced. It’s an open wound that our government & the catholic church has tried to cover with a Band-Aid of symbolic gestures. Although this history is very young, so young I’m reluctant to even call it history, you may be surprised to discover that many Canadians were shocked too. I’m ashamed to admit I was one of them.

Image provided by Kate Parkes at Elevation Pictures

I’ve never been more ashamed of my own ignorance. It would be easy for me to lean on a padded crutch: I was never taught this in school, adults never told me, I wasn’t exposed to first people’s communities. But that’s unfair, because this shouldn’t feel comfortable for me. It should hurt. And while all those things are true, I’ve been an adult for a while. It’s my responsibility to grow I knew the scars were there, but I never bothered to check how deep they were. 

I didn’t hold bigoted views, but I also didn’t know. I didn’t understand- to the extent that I even can understand. So I wasn’t as empathetic as I could be. As empathetic as you, the first people of our nation, deserved from me. Since then, I’ve been learning- through books, documentaries, podcasts, museums, first people’s media. I’m supporting survivor centered legislation, attending educational events, peaceful protests, observing holidays- while being respectful that there is a time and place for people like me to hold space in your communities. I’m also reading first people’s fiction books, and appreciating your art, dance, music, & theatre. Oppressed nations sometimes be defined by their suffering alone. Your culture’s beauty, spirituality and values are deserving of appreciation.

Image provided by Kate Parkes at Elevation Pictures

I’m also talking about it, knowing that I’m making some folks uncomfortable when I do. Growth is painful. I can stand here and say that, while I didn’t hold a hateful space, I want to be accountable for my ignorance & privilege. The two aren’t mutually exclusive- they can’t be if I want to do better. 

"Bones of Crows is the first Indigenous and female-led produced, written, and directed drama about the residential school experience in North America. Bones of Crows began in 2019 when Writer, Director and lead Producer Marie Clements and Executive Producer Sam Grana (The Boys of St. Vincent) began developing a TV series with Sally Catto at the CBC. The intention and focus was to create and execute a large-scale dramatic production that gave voice to the multi-generational effect of the residential school experience in Canada. With historical and dramatic reference, Bones of Crows has been created in the same artistic scope as Roots."

As a woman I’ve been conditioned to believe I shouldn’t use my voice, or my voice doesn’t matter. That it doesn’t have value in the same way my body does. I’m also conscious of how & when I use my voice to support you and try to amplify the voices of first people’s more than I use my own. The truth is, my voice doesn’t really matter in this and the only words I can possibly say that matter are I’m sorry. 

"Bones of Crows was also made in response to the calls to action that the Truth and 
Reconciliation Commission recommends from the CBC, SRC, APTN, and other federal institutions to create public programming and education about the history of residential schools in Canada and to support Reconciliation."

I hope all Canadians will see this film in theatres, those who carry the pain, and those like me, who are willing to face the shame.

"Bones of Crows was filmed on the traditional territories of the Esquimalt Nation, Kwikwetlem 
First Nation, Lekwungen Songhees Nation, Musqueam Nation, Okanagan Nation, Scia'new First Nation (Beecher Bay), Squamish Nation, Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓ pemc, Tla'amin Nation, Tsartlip 
Nation (North Saanich), Tseycum First Nation (Saanich), Tsleil Waututh Nation."

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