Indigenous filmmaking is getting more and more attention, says the director

Actress Grace Dove stars in the film Bones of Crows which recently screened at the Ottawa International Film Festival.  (TIFF - photo credit)

Actress Grace Dove stars in the film Bones of Crows which recently screened at the Ottawa International Film Festival. (TIFF – photo credit)

The director of a BC film telling the story of a boarding school survivor says her work is part of a “paradigm shift” as the Canadian film industry opens up more space for Indigenous filmmaking.

Directed by Marie Clements bones of crowswhich recently screened at the Ottawa International Film Festival (IFFO) and follows the life of Aline Spears, played by actress Grace Dove.

Clements, who is called Métis and was last at the film festival for her 2019 film before the pandemic Red snowsaid funding mandates have changed over the past three to five years to ensure Aboriginal storytelling plays a greater role.

That didn’t come without years of struggle and the urge for more justice, she said.

“I think most Indigenous filmmakers would say it was really tough. I think we feel like the door is opening now,” Clements said.

bones of crows received financial support from Telefilm and the Indigenous Screen Office. CBC Films was also a partner and the film will be adapted into a TV mini-series to air on CBC later this year.

Clements, who began her career in theater before devoting herself to writing, producing and directing various film projects, said, “It’s been really difficult for Indigenous filmmakers to get the support they deserve.”



How Canadian Films Are Funded and Recognized

Organizations like Telefilm have started spending more on Indigenous filmmakers.

Adriana Chartrand, who is also Métis, recognizes a degree of “gatekeeping” in relation to film financing that she experienced as the leader of indigenous initiatives at Telefilm.

“I think we’re trying to work to change who the players are, who the decision-makers are,” said Chartrand, who has a $4 million-a-year budget for Indigenous films. Telefilm can fund these projects at any stage, from development to production to post-production.

“The choices people make over time and at the same time will affect the films people watch. But I think we’re seeing a change.”

Content diversity has also grown among Indigenous storytellers working in the film industry, Chartrand said.

“We’re seeing a wider range of genres from Indigenous creators, which is super exciting. Like sci-fi, horror, comedy, you know, romantic comedy.”

In recent years, films about boarding schools have also gained in importance. include examples Indian horse (2017) and The Secret Path (2016), both of which were funded by many of the same institutions that bones of crows (2022) has.

Marie Clemens

Marie Clemens

Chartrand suggests that funding decision-makers and audiences influence the types of Indigenous films that are made, but it’s always difficult to know which film might connect with viewers.

Tom McSorley, Managing Director of IFFO, pointed this out Atanarjuat: The swift runner (2001) as a contemporary example of an Indigenous film that made it to international film festivals.

“That’s the other mystery of the movie game, you never really know what’s going to be super popular,” McSorley said.

Chartrand said Indigenous cinema today evolved out of documentary filmmaking, which in turn affected which Indigenous films were made and funded in the early years.

“All filmmakers want is to execute their vision of the world in a way that is responsible for their stories,” added Clements.


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