Regina-born actor stars in Indigenous film about domestic abuse and survival
Actress Sera-Lys McArthur, from Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation in Saskatchewan, can list many talents on her resume.
She has starred in TV shows such as Foreign and burden of truth; she lent her voice to a video game character based on her own Nakoda heritage and modeled this year at New York Fashion Week.
She can now add the lead role in a feature film to the list.
McArthur embodies the main character of Fallen Angela film by Jules Koostachin about a Cree woman who decides to escape a situation of domestic violence to improve her life and that of her 13-year-old daughter.
She said that many people will likely identify with Angel because they are in a similar situation or know someone who has had similar experiences to Angel’s.
« I think [what’s] important [is what] we see this character overcome – all these tough challenges just show that it’s not easy and it’s not something that happens overnight, » she said.
The film features both English and Cree, but McArthur’s character doesn’t speak much Cree, she said. She said the film depicts a healing process with Angel reconnecting with her roots and her community.
She said she did a lot of « absolutely necessary » preparation for the role as the filming schedule was only 12 days long and it’s one of her most intense roles.
« That says a lot because I do a lot of really intense roles and that’s why I felt up to the task, » she said.
She added that working with an Indigenous cast and crew made her feel « in good hands as an artist and storyteller. »
Director, screenwriter and producer, Koostachin is a Cree woman from the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario.
She said that as an Aboriginal filmmaker she had to do a lot with a little to Fallen Angel.
“There needs to be more of a shift in the industry where we can be recognized for the work we do with very limited resources,” she said.
She had pitched the script since 2006, but said many people she pitched it to told her people didn’t want to hear tragic stories.
« I finally said ‘I’m going to do this for me’ and I got an executive producer and all that and we did it, » she said.
“It was time we told the story. [was] meant to be, many years later. Even in production it was difficult, but we did it. »
Inspired by work at the Native Women’s Shelter
Koostachin said she had the idea for a film while working in social services in the early 2000s.
« I was running an Indigenous women’s shelter – I was inspired by my time working with women and their stories of resilience and strength and all the barriers they faced, » she said.
« It just blew my mind at times when we sat around the kitchen table telling stories and laughing, knowing that the journey these women had been on was pretty amazing that they were still able to come together and talk. and sharing stories and cooking for each other and stuff like that, so it really inspired me to write a story or write a script that honors this journey and their truth.
Koostachin said that on set, smudging and prayers took place daily and it added to the bonds between cast and crew. She said this experience was different from other projects she worked on.
« [In this film] we didn’t really need to explain why we were doing what we were doing, » she said.
« It was just our protocol, we just sort of understood the importance of the story… It was just kind of nice to be and create art. »
The film premiered at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto and is nominated for awards at the upcoming American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.
Koostachin is nominated for Best Director, her son Asivik Koostachin is nominated for Best Actor, and McArthur is nominated for Best Actress.
« People have dialogue that can potentially open other doors for us, especially Sera-Lys because I think she’s got incredible talent, » Koostachin said.
Broken Angel will screen in Regina on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CST at the Southland Mall Cineplex. McArthur, who is currently in New York, is unable to attend, but said she would be there in spirit.