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Finding Dawn

Director puts a human face on the 500 missing Aboriginal women in Canada

By Miriam Spies

Finding Dawn
Directed by Christine Welsh

Dawn Cray, Ramona Wilson and Daleen Kay Bosse are among the estimated 500 Aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered over the past 30 years. And with hundreds of cases still waiting to be solved, the need for greater attention inspired Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh to tell the stories of her forgotten sisters.

In Finding Dawn, Welsh puts a human face on a national tragedy. Her documentary offers insight into the daily realities of many Aboriginal women in Western Canada, from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia to the streets of Saskatoon. Winner of the Audience Gold Award at the 2006 Amnesty International Film Festival in Vancouver, the documentary stays away from gruesome details but burdens viewers with the sorrow of families and friends.

The stories are emotionally draining, and moments of levity are few and far between. Welsh doesn’t rush her interview subjects — long silences during the interviews with Dawn’s siblings, Lorraine and Ernie, evoke tears and memories of final visits with their sister. Sitting on the same park bench where she and Dawn last met, Lorraine says, “I still remember her grey eyes, long hair.” The setting here is powerful yet slightly contrived; during one of Lorraine’s long pauses, the camera zooms in on a crow, a symbol of death.

Finding Dawn uncovers much more than haunting stories and family histories; it examines the lasting impact of colonization, societal attitudes and negative media images.

Ultimately, though, Welsh fails to ask the hard questions of police authorities: Why are there delays in investigations? And why do the disappearances of and violence against Aboriginal women continue?

Author's photo
Miriam Spies will be blogging daily about Rendez-vous 2011 from now until Aug. 15.
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