DOXA Documentary Film Festival, May 4-14 at various locations. For more information visit doxafestival.ca.
Originally commissioned as a live performance at the Cultural Olympiad, Marie Clements’ musical documentary The Road Forward documents the struggle for aboriginal rights through the efforts of the Native Brotherhood and Native Sisterhood of B.C. organizations and the Native Voice newspaper.
Her film will screen at the DOXA Film Festival as the opening night gala presentation at the Vogue Theatre on Thursday, May 4 at 7 p.m.
Shot on location in B.C., Clements uses music, interviews, dramatic recreations and archival resources to tell the story. The Deep Cove resident spoke to the North Shore News earlier this week about the making of The Road Forward.
North Shore News: How did the project get started?
Marie Clements: It was originally commissioned in 2010 for the Cultural Olympiad as a live performance to celebrate B.C. history. I was doing some research and I came across the newspaper the Native Voice and then of course learned about the Native Brotherhood and the Native Sisterhood of B.C. I called the Native Fishing Association in West Vancouver and they were gracious enough to let me come in and look at their archives of the Native Voice. I was in a boardroom with about 70 years of newspapers. There’s something about looking at history in this way: one, because I didn’t know this newspaper existed and I didn’t know these early activists in the Native Brotherhood and Native Sisterhood had formed the newspaper and this is how different nations from across B.C., Canada and the U.S. came together in kind of a unified vision.
NSN: Are those the only copies of the paper?
Marie Clements: I believe the Native Fishing Association has had all the archives digitalized but at the time they were still in folders. I believe they had editions come out every month from 1936 to the late ’80s. There were hundreds of newspaper editions that chronicled huge events in Canadian history as told by aboriginal news stringers.
NSN: As well as the founder of the Native Voice a lot of the writers were women.
Marie Clements: It was Maisie Hurley’s brainchild along with other Sisterhood members that began the Native Voice and she was a force to be reckoned with on so many levels. Many of the editors were women and they worked alongside newsmen. It was very original for its time. When you look back then it was hard to see women in newspapers, other than Katherine Hepburn, but they really did work side by side to create a unique way of communicating. It was a really amazing newspaper.
NSN: The Sisterhood theme is reflected in the production of the film. A lot of women were involved in the making of The Road Forward.
Marie Clements: It made sense for women to have a large profile in the movie, obviously, because they do in life. I worked really closely with Jennifer Kreisberg who was one of the lead composers and a lot of the vocalists are women. What we were trying to do was bring men’s voices and women’s voices together in a similar fashion to what the Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood did so even though stories might be distinct from a point of view they come together to tell that story.
NSN: How does theatre and film complement each other in your own work?
Marie Clements: Theatre is such a brutal and beautiful discipline. My work has always been quite imagistic and lends itself more to a cinematic world. That’s what I’ve been kind of diving into now is looking at ways of bringing stories to film that my experience as a playwright, writer and director can translate into this form.
NSN: The Road Forward’s structure reminded me of the work of French essayist Chris Marker whose work is also represented at this year’s DOXA. It seemed like an essay form you were working with at times as you move between musical and narrative passages.
Marie Clements: It’s definitely weaving elements within the larger story. The Road Forward always started from words on paper and the activists use their stories to address issues that they are passionate about. Then it made sense to work with musicians and vocalists who are also using their voices to create change. I tried to combine the two. You know the feeling when you are turning pages of the newspaper and your eyes will go to a headline or you’ll be drawn in by a photograph and you kind of go into stories that way. In some ways I was trying to create that feeling that our minds are moving over things and we settle on the headline and go into the story in a deeper and different way. That’s what we love about newspapers. There’s a lot offered on the page and our personal interests guide us to a certain image or a certain headline and we are taken away by that.
NSN: How did you compose the music?
Marie Clements: I wrote the lyrics and Wayne Lavallee and Jennifer Kreisberg wrote the music compositions. Wayne was the film composer and Jennifer was a lead composer writing music for the songs. Wayne wrote a few songs and there were also guest composers. We originally had 17 songs in the live performance. We could do three more movies! We used seven of those songs in the film version of The Road Forward.
NSN: What parts of the film did you shoot in West Vancouver?
Marie Clements: We shot in Whytecliff Park. Two music segments, “1965” and “Good God” were primarily shot there.
NSN: It’s a large cast. What were the logistics of getting everybody together?
Marie Clements: We shot the documentary segments first and then we took a couple of months to work on those and then we were able to go into Bryan Adams’ studio and record all the music, which was a huge undertaking and really exciting. We shot more of what we call the story songs, the music videos in The Road Forward, as the third segment and then we did a couple of pickup days. It was a long process.
The Road Forward opens DOXA at the Vogue on Thursday, May 4 at 7 p.m. with a second screening scheduled at The Annex for Wednesday, May 10 at 12:30 p.m.
For more on The Road Forward visit nsnews.com/entertainment/theatre/the-road-forward-takes-the-stage-at-push-fest-1.1754758.