There are moments when Marie Clements’ “Bones of Crows” has a similar lyrical power, mostly when star Grace Dove is on screen, but this movie has an unusual problem—it’s a film that’s a calling card for a mini-series. There’s a long history of people making short films to get the financing to develop them into a full-length feature, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before a film that’s already being reworked into a mini-series. And you can definitely tell. Spanning generations, “Bones of Crows” lacks focus and gets frustrating as it has to constantly play the emotional peaks of so many major life moments, ones that will be better spread out over the length of multiple episodes.
The excellent Dove is only one of the women who plays Aline Spears, a legend of the Cree people who has worked to cast a light on the horrendous treatment of Indigenous Canadian people who were stolen from their homes and sent to Residential Schools, where many of them were abused and even murdered. Born in the 1920s, Spears was pulled from her family and sent to one of these religious institutions, one of many places that saw Indigenous children as less than human.
Her legend grew during World War II when Spears used her Cree fluency to help craft a coded system for the military. The very history that her persecutors at the school had literally attempted to beat out of Spears helped save lives. She would return home to raise a family in Canada, but her fight to bring the issue of the Residential Schools all the way to the Vatican in 2021 would make international headlines.
Clearly, there’s a lot of story to tell here, and Clements finds powerful moments in Dove’s undeniable depth as a dramatic actress. But her film is just too often unwieldy or melodramatic, the kind of thing that needed more room to breathe, which it will likely get in a series form.
Finally, there’s Gail Maurice’s sweet-but-shallow “ROSIE,” a gentle character study about life on the edge of society in Montreal in the 1980s, seen through the eyes of an orphaned Indigenous girl. When Rosie’s (Keris Hope Hill) mother dies, she’s left adrift, with no place to call home. She ends up at the home of her aunt Frédèrique (Mélanie Bray), someone who barely seems interested in taking care of herself, much less a little girl. She works at an adult entertainment shop and hangs out with two gender-fluid friends named Flo (Constant Bernard) and Mo (Alex Trahan). It’s not exactly the normal place to raise a kid.