Sonia Bonspille Boileau says her projects are always about subjects that bother her and in her latest film the Mohawk filmmaker tackles the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Bonspille Boileau, who hails from Kanesatake Mohawk Territory in Quebec, said she wanted to tell a story that would help non-indigenous people understand what indigenous families go through when their mothers and daughters disappear. In her film, Rustic Oracle, a teenage girl goes missing and her mother and younger sister go on a road trip to try to track her down.
“I think everyone’s aware of the high numbers and the national inquiry and all that, but I think we’ve kind of lost touch with the fact that these are families,” Bonspille Boileau said. “These are real families that to this day a lot of them are still grieving. A lot of them still don’t have answers. So it’s with them in mind and, I should say, in heart that I wrote this film.”
Rustic Oracle debuted at last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival before hitting the festival circuit and picking up more than two dozen awards. Now its theatrical release has begun and from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 it’s screening in Nanaimo for the first time at Avalon Cinema.
“These are the first runs that are open to the public and so far the response has been amazing,” Bonspille Boileau said. “I’ve been getting so many emails and messages from people that were touched by the story, that many days later are still haunted by a certain scene.”
Bonspille Boileau said it was a difficult film to research and write. She said it’s loosely based on a few real cases that “haunted” her and having a seven-year-old girl and her mother as the two lead characters made it personal.
“The decision of telling it through the perspective of a child I thought at first would actually make it easier,” Bonspille Boileau said. “But as a mom – I have a son and two stepdaughters – I kept hearing their words and I kept seeing them in this situation so it actually ended up making it emotionally harder.”
The focus on the family, rather than the investigation, was intended to help bring non-indigenous viewers into the story. Bonspille Boileau said that although there is an underlying sub-theme about the social issues that are specific to indigenous people, the overall arc about family and motherhood is universal.
“Ultimately it’s a bit of an homage to motherhood because I’m still stunned to see all these moms that are the ones on the front lines trying to get justice for their children and for their families,” Bonspille Boileau said. “And so I wanted to show that resilience and that strength that so many indigenous women have.”
WHAT’S ON … Rustic Oracle comes to Avalon Cinema, 6631 North Island Hwy., from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1. For showtimes and tickets, click here.