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Monkey Beach: Reconnecting With Your Roots - Grace Dove

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

Monkey Beach Grace Dove

The history and culture of Canadian Indigenous peoples are rich and complex, but are often misrepresented in media and disregarded by those who do not understand their cultural, relational and historical value. Films can become an avenue for us all to connect with Indigenous culture when members of the community are represented wisely and well.

Inclusivity in storytelling is essential so that stories, tradition, and heritage can be genuinely shared by and through those who have experienced them first hand. Indigenous representation is vital for a community to claim ownership, and take pride in their identity and the preservation of their culture.

In this episode, activist, actress, and director Grace Dove shares her experience as an Indigenous woman in the film industry. Grace Dove narrates the story of her struggles and what she learned from the characters she has portrayed. Tackling important issues, Grace talks about healing in coming home and the importance of connecting with your identity.

If you’re interested in learning more about Monkey Beach and Indigenous identity in the movie industry, this episode with Grace Dove is for you!

3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Gain a new perspective with Grace Dove as she discusses the shooting, story, and acting in Monkey Beach, Kiri and the Dead Girl, and The Revenant.

  2. Learn about the value and importance of proper representation of indigenous identity in media.

  3. Understand the significance of indigenous history, ancestry, and culture.


Episode Highlights

[05:57] Monkey Beach World Premiere

  • Monkey Beach premieres at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

  • For Grace Dove, the hard work is done in Monkey Beach and it is a time for celebration.

  • Unlike before, the COVID situation has limited their in-person interactions with Monkey Beach.

[08:19] Grace’s Projects

  • The films Monkey Beach and Kiri and the Dead Girl speak about the spirituality, ancestry, and culture of indigenous people.

  • Kiri and the Dead Girl is Grace’s first directing opportunity.

  • Grace Dove is grateful for the full experience of her activism, acting, and now, directing. It gives her perspective on her projects.

  • Grace Dove was first an actor, but now prioritizes activism.

[10:32] Acts of Activism

  • Grace Dove incorporated activism in everything that she does.

  • During her early years of acting, she was overwhelmed by the number of people asking for her political opinions.

  • Grace Dove eventually realized that she had an opportunity to be the voice for the people in media.

Grace Dove: “I realized that people need strong voices in the media. They need me to have an opinion. And I'm given this platform, I better take advantage of it.” - Click Here to Tweet This
  • Despite others’ interest in her opinion, there are people who simply dismiss her as an actress.

[13:26] The Shooting of Revenant

  • For Grace Dove, shooting Revenant in 2015 was an example of authentic and extreme filmmaking.

  • She faced extreme weather conditions and pressure from the intensity of the shoot.

  • Grace Dove struggled with these challenges. However, her first experience helped her become an actress who had no expectations and was ready for anything.

[16:02] Interpreting Films

  • Films can be interpreted in different ways by different people.

Grace Dove: “The beauty of film and scripts is that it might mean something to me, and something completely different to the writers and to the director and to the author. We may all interpret it completely differently.” - Click Here to Tweet This
  • People tend to filter what they say depending on who they’re talking to because they’re scared of what others would think or say.

  • In the film, Monkey Beach, the dead are honest because they have no more reason to fear and watch their words.

  • Those in the land of the dead have the wisdom gained from dying and the life you live. This is what helped them guide the main character in Monkey Beach.

[18:26] The Themes of Monkey Beach

  • One of the main themes in Monkey Beach is about learning your people’s land.

  • Monkey Beach is hopeful about life despite the heavy issues it tackles. Monkey Beach reminds its audience that you can always go home to heal and reconnect.

  • Part of Monkey Beach brings up the trauma and struggles of indigenous people. The main character in Monkey Beach is guided to breathe and heal from these.

  • It’s important to have a safe space to discuss trauma to allow healing and reconnection.

  • You can learn much more about Monkey Beach and its messages by listening to the full episode.

[30:05] Connecting With Characters

  • In current times, social media and technology can clutter our lives.

  • When preparing for a role, Grace steps away from all distractions and focuses on her character.

  • Removing distractions and being still gives her space to feel and connect with the identity of her character.

[32:41] Films In Depth

  • The difference between mediocrity and award-winning films is the details of their characters, theme, and plot.

  • Knowing more about the background and history of her character helps Grace connect to them.

  • Grace Dove is passionate and stands up for the proper representation of her people.

  • If she was not deeply connected with her character’s history, she wouldn’t be able to fight for it.

[36:18] Indigenous Filmmaking

  • Films can highlight the differences between western and indigenous people’s perspectives. Proper representation allows people to see and understand this.

  • Something she learned from Loretta is that they don’t have to fit in a single box of standards.

  • Grace Dove starts her day with a smudging ceremony. During shooting, she invited the crew to join her and welcomed them through the process.

  • Indigenous cinema allows people to learn while proudly showcasing their identity.

[41:12] Speaking Up on Indigenous Identity

Grace’s TED Talk about reclaiming indigenous identity was a pivotal moment for her.

  • In her industry, she felt disrespected and offended because she was constantly asked to lessen her indigeneity and conform to others’ views on indigenous people.

  • When she was able to voice her opinions on indigenous identity in the industry, she called for them to be better.

  • By standing up, Grace encourages others to have a voice in the industry.

  • Afterward, she continued to speak about these topics in different stages and advocate for change.

[46:25] Kiri and the Dead Girl

  • Written by Christopher Logan, the movie is about the artist, Kiri Geen.

  • Grace found that it resonated with the experiences of many indigenous communities.

  • The story revolves around a girl who loses her mother and finds healing by connecting with the roots of her history and culture.

  • The film emphasizes the importance of culture and ancestry for the youth.

Grace: “If I can share with young people, that they are never alone, that they have the guidance of their ancestors, and if they connect with their culture then they can survive anything. And I just think that's the type of message that I want to create.” - Click Here to Tweet This
  • Grace hopes to continue to create safe spaces for the next generation in her industry.

About Grace

Grace Dove is a Secwépemc actress and director who made her international debut inIñárritu's The Revenant (2015). She is known for playing the lead character of Monkey Beach (2020), and Ricki in How it Ends (2018). She was awarded Best Actress for her role in Monkey Beach in the American Indian Film Festival Awards.

Grace is Secwépemc First Nation from Tsq'escen' (Canim Lake Indian Band). Her indigenous roots connect her to the many roles she has played. She is known for her strong voice on indigenous representation in films and reclaiming indigenous identity. Grace is also a keynote speaker where she spreads her message about culture and history. She is also passionate about youth empowerment and creating a safe space for the next generation.

Grace recently debuted as a director in 2021 with her film, Kiri and the Dead Girl. The story focuses on healing and reconnection with their indigenous identity. Learn more about Grace, Monkey Beach, and her projects on her website.

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