Sonia Bonspille Boileau made her first feature length film Le Dep in just 10 days. She was in London to see it screened at Raindance 2015 and gave me some of her time for a chat about filmmaking.
The main challenge for this film [Le Dep] was that I wanted the main character to be a strong indigenous woman. I was surrounded by men when I was developing the project; it was hard for me make sure that the focus stay on this character rather than go towards the antagonist who was male. That was a huge struggle in the development process but once that was established and everyone agreed the script worked I was very fortunate to have a team who believed in me and the story. The film is the story of a young Innu woman (Innu is one of the 11 First Nations in Quebec), it takes place in this one location, a very claustrophobic atmosphere and it serves as a catalyst to look at family issues and community issues. It was supposed to be a psychological drama and it turned into a thriller
I think it is getting better [in Canada as a woman filmmaker] but it’s not great. In the province of Quebec where I’m from, the French side of Canada, we have our own film industry. I find that that film culture is even less open to women here than the rest of Canada is. We have beautiful cinema, I think it’s the strongest in the country but there is a lack of female perspective in films in Quebec sadly.
I think indigenous women have always been great storytellers and there is a long history of artists in the indigenous communities that are women. I think there’s a stronger need to tell our stories; we are actually telling truths, even in scripted drama we are trying to show a reality. There is an indigenous cinema in Canada [where] there are more women than there are men telling our stories; I like that, I draw from that, I focus on that and I get inspired by that rather than get discouraged by the fact that the industry is very male driven.
I think the fact I was the first aboriginal woman to make a feature in Canada drew a lot of attention and it was positive attention and I hope it opens doors for a lot of other indigenous and female directors in Canada, there aren’t enough of us.
I’m looking forward to the day when we could just tell a story like men do but we’re still in an era where you feel that pressure where if you are female and you have a chance to put great female characters on screen obviously you’re going to take it because that guy’s not going to do it and that guy’s not going to do it so we have to do it.
In Canada all of our funding comes from one place they have rules and regulations that mean you have a better shot if you’re a woman, your story still has to be great of course but they are making room. On the one hand it feels there’s an obligation to make room but at the same time if they don’t then how are we going to get on screen? I’m hopeful in the next few years there will be more and more women directors.
Le Dep is a micro budget film, funded under Telefilm in the micro budget section so it has to cost less than $200k, we shot it in 10 days. I had no idea it would bring us all the way to London, there’s hope in small budget films.
One issue dear to my heart is missing and murdered indigenous women so I’m writing a feature based on a case I know well. I don’t want to take the true story and try to say exactly what happened so I’m doing the same thing I did with Le Dep and taking 3 or 4 stories to draw a bigger picture of what is going on.
I’m incredibly fortunate to be making films. I’m hoping along the way there will be more and more women alongside me; more indigenous women too.