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Bones of Crows film image, director Marie Clements

Bones of Crows

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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.


Note: The Opening Gala screening will take place Thursday, September 29, 6 pm at the Centre for Performing Arts.


Q&A Sept 29 & Oct 4


Presented by

Media Partner


Grace Dove, Phillip Forest Lewitski, Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Michelle Thrush, Gail Maurice, Carla Rae

Country of Origin





In English, Cree, ʔayʔajuθəm, and Italian with English subtitles

Content Warning

Residential Schools, Sexual Violence, Child Abuse, Racial Discrimination, Coarse Language


Open to youth!

127 min
Human Rights & Social Justice Women Directors

Book Tickets

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Executive Producer

Marie Clements, Sam Grana, Aaron Gilbert, Steven Thibault, Noah Segal


Marie Clements, Trish Dolman, Christine Haebler


Marie Clements


Vince Arvidson


Maxime Lahaie

Production Design

James Philpott

Original Music

Jesse Zubot, Wayne Lavallee


Marie Clements headshot, Bones of Crows director

Marie Clements

A writer, director, and producer whose career has spanned film, TV, radio, and live performance, Marie Clements is a Dene/Métis filmmaker and the founder of Marie Clements Media, a production company specializing in the creation and production of media works that ignite an Indigenous and intercultural reality. Her dramatic feature debut Red Snow (2019) received numerous awards including Most Popular Canadian Feature at VIFF and Best Director at the American Indian Film Festival. Clements’ 2017 documentary The Road Forward opened the DOXA Documentary Film Festival, received multiple awards, and has screened at more than 300 venues in North America.

Filmography: The Road Forward (2017); Red Snow (2019)