After a decade in the acting industry, Grace Dove knows why she chose this field.
“I really believe I became an actor and a storyteller to share hard stories,” she told CBC’s Eli Glasner.
Dove stars as Aline Spears in Bones of Crows, a film written and directed by Marie Clements.
The film follows a Cree woman’s journey from her childhood to old age as she navigates trauma from her time in the residential school system.
As with any role, there’s research involved.
“I have to do the homework. I have to study about World War II. I have to study about code talking,” Dove said. “I have to study about even being a Cree Indigenous person. I’m Secwépemc, so that brings so much to learn about.”
And an actor, she says there’s something from within that she must also bring to the role.
“I have to bring a piece of me,” she said. “Especially when it comes to Indigenous representation, when it comes to Indigenous films, this is my story. This is my family story. So there is so much heaviness to it.”
“But also it’s so healing, and I think that every role I do, it really brings out what I need to almost let go.”
She says Bones of Crows is another way to address a subject where some may want to look away.
“I think there’s a time and place for films about love, a rom-com. And we will see that,” she said. “I hope for more of that, that we have more light Indigenous cinema, but … we can’t do that yet until the truth is out there.”
Bones of Crows will also be a five-part limited series on CBC and APTN beginning Sept. 20. The story will expand on the feature film, with a broader focus on Spears’ relatives over the span of 100 years.
“I think the most important message that I took away is, what happens to you and how you deal with those adversities is going to last for, we say seven generations,” Dove said.
“It really shows the impact generation by generation and I think that’s what the series is really going to delve into.”
The breadth of the project meant a large cast, many of whom came to the production with lengthy resumes.
“We’ve had so many Indigenous creatives fighting for us to be here, for me to be here, and so it’s just constantly passing the torch and getting better every time,” she said.
Dove had a breakthrough role in the 2015 film The Revenant, playing the wife of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass. DiCaprio is starring in the upcoming Killers of The Flower Moon, from director Martin Scorcese, which centres around the Osage Nation in Oklahoma.
She says she was in the running to be cast in that film and met Scorcese.
“I think it would be weird if me and Leo got married again, especially, you know when it happens eventually in real life as well,” she joked.
Lessons for the audience
There’s a practical lesson Dove wants viewers to take from Bones of Crows.
“I hope that audiences can walk away and think about their actions, and think about the way that they treat people. Because the way that you treat someone today might affect their family for generations,” she said.
“It just comes back to human kindness, and seeing people for real people.”