Based on the Giller-award winning novel by Joseph Boyden, and adapted for the screen by Barbara Samuels (North of 60), Through Black Spruce follows Annie Bird, a young Cree woman who is looking for her lost sister Suzanne, and her Uncle Will, a bush pilot who’s been deeply affected by his niece’s disappearance. Moving between Annie and Will’s perspectives of recounting the past and their connections to Suzanne, a layered and emotional journey about loss and family is at the heart of the film.
Largely shot on location in Toronto and Moosonee, Ontario, the film’s collaborators made a very conscious decision that despite it being a work of fiction, they did not make the communities anonymous, mirroring the settings from the novel. Keenly aware they are addressing the very real issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, the creative team doesn’t shy away from the weight that holds. Featuring an experienced cast and crew, including actors Graham Greene, Tantoo Cardinal and Tina Keeper (who also produced the film), it is Brandon Oakes performance as Uncle Will that gives the film its soul along with Tanaya Beatty’s role as Annie, who risks jeopardizing her own life in search of her sister. Our most important stories are often the most difficult ones to share, but the damage of silence is much greater than the pain of the truth. Through Black Spruce is a reminder of cinema’s power to offer a new path forward and one that must be travelled.
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