VIFF Film Review - Bones of Crows (2022)

Still image of Grace Dove in Bones of Crows

The 41st Vancouver International Film Festival is coming up Thursday September 29th until October 9th. There will be over 130 films for you to see in theatre, as well as 100 shorts, 20 in person events and a select amount of films that you can stream from the comfort of your home via VIFF Connect. It’s basically Christmas for movie lovers. You can see films from all over the world including some great features made right here in our hometown. This year’s opening gala film is "Bones of Crows" by Vancouver born Dene/Métis writer-director Marie Clements.


I’ve seen quite a few movies about residential schools in Canada which tell the tragic stories of what happened to Indigenous children in these institutions, but I’ve never seen one that follows a survivor through their entire life. "Bones of Crows" is a story about a young Cree girl named Aline Spears, outstandingly portrayed by Grace Dove. The storyline moves back and forth in her life from her childhood in the 1930’s through to her senior years, in more present time.


I think this film is incredibly important because sadly there is still a great amount of people in Canada who hold the belief that the atrocities of residential schools happened “a long time ago” and “Indigenous people just need to get over it”. Bones of Crows takes that misinformed belief and tears it down. As you watch how Aline’s childhood trauma follows her through her whole life you can see how it is deeply present right up to the end of the story but she’s also a fierce survivor. You also get to witness how that intergenerational trauma affects the rest of her family and how she tried to protect her own children from those pains. Many residential school survivors, my own family included, kept the secrets of the abuses they suffered and took them to the grave due to shame and not wanting to burden the next generation.


“I didn’t want you to carry more than you already did."


It’s a heart breaking movie to watch but it’s so incredibly impactful. Marie Clements did an outstanding job of letting Aline’s story unfold in a very intricate way. "Bones of Crows" not only details the abuses of residential schools but also touches on the devastating issues of Indigenous people being over represented in prisons, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls cases, and how Indigenous people were treated by the Canadian government after bravely serving in World War 2.


If you were only able to see one film at the festival this year I would highly recommend you see "Bones of Crows".


The 41st Vancouver International Film Festival runs September 29 – October 9.

Tickets and info visit

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their Residential school experience. Call 1-800-721-0066.


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