The shadow of crows | A bright shoot for a dark story

It’s a very special project that brought together Karine Vanasse and Rémy Girard on screen, 20 years later. Seraph: a man and his sin. In The shadow of crows, by Marie Clements, the two actors play members of the clergy involved in the residential school system for Aboriginal people. An enriching experience on a plateau imbued with benevolence.

“When we learned that story at school, we pretty much agreed with our priests and we thought it was okay, on the pretext that it was better for them and for their future. But we had it all wrong, ”says Rémy Girard from the outset.

The story in question is that of systemic racism experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada for decades. Through the character of Aline Spears – who survived her childhood in the residential school system to then become a transmitter in Cree code during the Second World War, and finally go to denounce the abuses in the Vatican – we tell in The shadow of crows the treatment of these peoples, which has left traces from generation to generation.


Rémy Girard as Father Jacobs in The shadow of crows

Upon reading the script, the one who put himself in the shoes of Father Jacobs immediately wanted to participate in the project carried out essentially by native craftsmen. A great opportunity to participate in this great company of good storytelling, he explains. “Our characters aren’t the right ones, let’s say. But these roles are important to play in order to fully understand what happened,” says Rémy Girard.

Rebalancing the roles

An almost entirely Aboriginal crew surrounded Métis director Marie Clements during filming. A good lesson in humility for actors, tells us Karine Vanasse. “I remember, the first day on the set, the assistant director who was directing me, he was an Aboriginal. It’s stupid, but just that, we’re not used to it. »


Karine Vanasse

We felt the burden for each of the people present on the set. The pride they had in seeing this story finally be told with these means. Not like a side story that we hide, but giving it all the importance it has.

Karine Vanasse

The film recounts the horrors, but also succeeds in highlighting the Aboriginal culture, its rituals and its traditions. “All the spiritual richness from which we cut ourselves off, the film gives it back so much value,” adds the actress. Rémy Girard, whom the scenes loaded with symbols have touched a lot, abounds in the same direction. “It’s a beauty! Their way of being so close to their environment and being so inclined to help each other, it’s wonderful to see that. »

Des lieux chargés 

La portion du film dans laquelle les deux acteurs québécois jouent a été tournée au pensionnat de Kamloops, en Colombie-Britannique. L’ancien établissement fait la manchette depuis 2021, année où des sépultures anonymes y ont été trouvées. Il va donc sans dire que cet espace est habité par son passé. « Il y a beaucoup de sagesse dans le fait de se réapproprier les lieux », note Karine Vanasse.


Karine Vanasse dans L’ombre des corbeaux

Des soins étaient offerts au cas où des membres de l’équipe ressentiraient les contrecoups des scènes difficiles. En plus de psychologues disponibles sur place, des aînés autochtones faisaient des cérémonies de purification chaque matin, chaque soir, et parfois même entre les prises.


Rémy Girard

On sentait que Marie [Clements] was inhabited by a mission and by the spirit of the place. She brought a lot of sweetness to the set, sometimes it looked like she came from above.

Remy Girard

“It’s true, that, intervenes Karine Vanasse. There was no fear of the story in which we plunged because there was a confidence that it was well carried, well told. It’s a dark story, but on set it was bright. Light shone from everything. »

Should this concern for well-being inspire non-native artisans of the seventh art? What is certain is that the intention behind this film made it an enriching experience on all levels for those who participated in it.

The shadow of crows will be on view from June 2.

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