'A little girl who has an open heart': EIFF opening film Rosie celebrates community and healing

·3 min read
The new film Rosie is the feature-film debut of Métis writer-director-actor Gail Maurice. (TIFF - image credit)
The new film Rosie is the feature-film debut of Métis writer-director-actor Gail Maurice. (TIFF - image credit)

After premiering in front of a sold-out crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival, the new film Rosie will hit the big screen in Edmonton on opening night of the Edmonton International Film Festival Thursday.

For Métis director Gail Maurice her movie was inspired by the desire to tell a story that explored the strength of chosen family bonds and the impacts of intergenerational trauma through events like the Sixties Scoop.

"I just wanted to tell a beautiful story about a little girl who has an open heart and sees the world with non-judgment,"  Maurice said in an interview with CBC's Edmonton AM Wednesday.

The movie, which started as a short feature in 2017, follows the story of Rosie, a young Indigenous, English-speaking girl who is adopted by her Francophone aunt in Montreal during the 1980s.

LISTEN | Director and actor talk to CBC's Edmonton AM about EIFF opening movie Rosie

Rosie is adopted after her mother dies and she is unable to reconnect with other family members due to lost records.

The story shows how she learns to navigate feelings of alienation through the help of her chosen family, who are her aunt's friends.

The film explores the Cree perspective of being genderless and the power of characters who live on the fringes of society.

Maurice, who also acts in the movie, said it was important for her to make the movie trilingual to explore her native language of Michif. The language is a combination of Cree and French, while also borrowing from other languages including English and Ojibway. It is spoken by about 1,000 people in British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

"I've lived in Toronto for over 20 years and in those 20 years, maybe five [people], have ever heard of Michif so I wanted to be able to talk about on my language," Maurice said.

By also throwing the main character Rosie into a world where the language is foreign, Maurice said she wanted to drive home the point that love is what uplifts the family at the end of the movie.

TIFF
TIFF

Montreal actor and producer Melanie Bray plays Rosie's bilingual aunt Frédèrique and said in an interview with CBC's Edmonton AM that it was a joy to revisit the character.

"I'm honoured that Gail wrote the part for me and it's not often that you get to play the same part twice," Bray said.

Keris Hope Hill of Six Nations of the Grand River, Ont. played the character of Rosie and Bray said she was a perfect fit.

"One of the biggest challenges is some little kids submitted great auditions, but then we'd meet them and they were so shy ... she [Keris] was at the beginning," Bray said.

"But by the end, she was dragging me around by the hand and was my best friend."

Maurice said she hopes people will walk away from the movie feeling a spectrum of emotions.

"It's very poignant, but in the next scene, you're going to be laughing and there's a lot of humour and in Indigenous cultures, for example, at our wakes, we tell stories, we play cards, we laugh, even though our hearts are breaking," Maurice said.

"So I tried to bring that into Rosie, by the end, you'll feel good ... triumphant."

Rosie will open EIFF on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Landmark Cinemas 9 Edmonton City Centre.