Stories like Rustic Oracle must be told, says Carmen Moore

The ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is seen through the eyes of an eight year-old girl in Rustic Oracle.

Rustic Oracle

When: Available now
Where: VOD on Apple TV, Bell, Cogego, Videotron, Vimeo
The ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is seen through the eyes of an eight year-old girl in the dramatic feature Rustic Oracle.
As Ivy — deftly played by talented newcomer Lake Delisle — tries to grasp the realities of her big sister vanishing from their small community, her mother Susan, in a star turn by Vancouver-based actor Carmen Moore, attempts to unravel what happened. 
Aspects of the mystery are revealed in a tension-filled road trip across Quebec and Ontario. There is no happy ending.
Instead, the award-winning feature directed by Sonia Bonspille Boileau of the Mohawk Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy takes viewers inside a scenario played out across this country and elsewhere from the Indigenous perspective and lays the human cost on the table.

Having made the rounds of film festivals to glowing reviews, the film is now finally available on video on demand. Its story is every bit as current now as it was when it was released. Moore says the film was unlike nothing else being made at the time.

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“A lot of people in Canada don’t know about these stories and Sonia is a strong, powerful storyteller,” said Moore. “I had seen her film Le Dep, and I knew that she had a unique and inspiring creative voice which made me excited to be working with her, and with a largely Indigenous cast and crew. There have been other stories about the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, but as Sonia noted, the issue has become political and we lost sight of the fact of how deeply it effects the people that are experiencing it — families, sisters, mothers, all parents.”

Moore’s turn as Susan is masterfully nuanced.

Desperately trying to hold together a single-parent household, facing financial hardships and personal pressures, her character is hyperreal. Confronted by a combative teen daughter, she is every parent in that situation. But when things turn terrible, her treatment at the hands of the authorities is one reserved for those who live under systemic racism. Her ability to take matters into her own hands when that system’s indifference and incompetence prove too much to bear is a powerful moment in the movie.

But the true genius of Rustic Oracle lies in its reflection of events back through the impressions of Ivy. Moore says Boileau nailed it.

“She wanted to tell the story from the view of the people who are experiencing it, and telling it through the eyes of the eight year-old is brilliant,” said Moore. “She is so lost and confused and, also, wanting to be a kid who gets her mother’s attention and wants to play. But, ultimately, she is forced to grow up really fast.”

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Lake Delisle (as Ivy) and Carmen Moore (Susan) star in Rustic Oracle. Photo by Rustic Oracle /PNG

There are no shortage of other relevant issues interspersed into the film, but nothing is ever heavy-handed. When Ivy is thirsty in a motel and her mother tells her she can drink tap water, the young girl approaches pouring a glass like it was magic. When the media rushes to report on a white crime victim while ignoring the victimized community all around the reporters, there is no need to be preachy. It is what it is.

Raised in Coquitlam, of mixed Wet’suwet’en and white heritage, Moore has played many Indigenous roles over the course of her career. She was nominated for five Leo Awards, and won three, for her role as Leona Stoney in the APTN political/crime series Blackstone and played Indigenous characters on the hit series Outlander and Vikings. However, her resume is loaded up with everything from popular Hollywood series such as Stargate SG-1 and Supernatural to Arrow and Motive.

She is adamant that she doesn’t claim to be, and has never identified as, an Indigenous actor.

“I’m not full, I’m half, and grew up with my mother, who is white, and I didn’t have any ties to my community,” she said. “I have never claimed to understand my culture or traditions, and all I have is my own experience of having grown up with one foot in two worlds and never feeling like I belonged in either — not white enough or brown enough. All I can speak to is that acting is a kind of therapy that gave me the opportunity to have an outlet to express myself and start to understand those two sides of what I was and who I am.”

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“I think that it really saved my life.”

Now part of a community of local actors who work steadily in the bustling film and TV world, she does advise women coming into the industry that now is a really exciting time. Rapid shifts around #MeToo and BIPOC issues are opening up across the spectrum and they are significant. The rise in roles for women over the age of 40 is another significant change.

“I think we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, and things are starting to reflect the world we all live in as it’s actually going on, but there is still a ways to go,” she said. “I have a long-held dream to play and elf someday, and when I told a friend they were like “but you can’t be an elf.” Why, because I’m not pale enough or blond? The gauntlet has dropped on that now.”

Moore is working in a new series that she can’t discuss further which starts shooting soon.

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