We've previously seen Doug Bedard, Cree, on ICTMN in his hip-hop alter ego Plex — earlier in 2013, he released an Idle No More anthem called "No More" — but he's a multifaceted artist whose talent takes him in a few different directions. His latest project is the film Moose River Crossing (mooserivercrossingthemovie.com), directed by Shirley Cheechoo, in which he plays one of six residential school classmates who reunite many years later. Moose River Crossing shows tonight in San Francisco as part of the American Indian Film Festival. Bedard took a few moments to share his thoughts on Moose River Crossing with ICTMN.
How much did you know about the residential schools experience before signing on to do this film?
I knew a fair amount about residential school before filming, but I definitely became more informed after reading the script and during filming. My grandmother was in residential school, along with her sister and one of her brothers. I was already in my late teens before I even heard about residential school. If she spoke about it, I was too young to remember. They certainly didn't speak about it in any schools I've attended.
How widely is the phenomenon of residential schools understood in Canada?
Again, when I was growing up, I never heard about residential school. When I did learn about it, I did not even realize how huge of an impact it had on Native people. I think it was a story on the news about someone seeking legal action against the government of Canada and you know how the conservative media is — either the story was spun to seem as though it was an isolated case, or I was too young or full of ego to care about it at the time. But the fact is, I believe most of Canada does not understand how widespread the terror was for these survivors. These people were our parents, our grandparents, our uncles, our aunts, our friends, our cousins, but most importantly, they were children. They were little kids being raped, beaten and mentally abused. Some were lab rats in medical experiments. Some of them were deprived of food. Canada's jails are full of people of all races, many of which are in there because they couldn't deal with the same types of abuse they endured as children. But this is all of the kids who attended residential school. If there's a First Nations person out there who looks back fondly on their years in residential school, I've yet to hear them speak up. I'm not saying every single child was raped, but all of them suffered some type of abuse. And most of them grew up and didn't have the knowledge or resources to ever deal with or make sense of it all. I believe it's been the gas to the fire of addiction, and poverty and abuse that's crippling native people today. I definitely suffer from the long term effects or residential school. There's no way I could ever deny that. It just gets handed down to the next generation and to the next, and to the next.
What are the issues at stake for the characters in the film, and for your character in particular?
The characters in the movie are reuniting after many years and reliving old memories, both good and bad. My character Tommy is kind of a charismatic sex-addict who works for the Department of Indian Affairs. He really needed this reunion to sort his shit out. Seeing all his school mates brought back some memories of his youth that shaped who he is as an adult.
You're also in Empire of Dirt, which recently screened at ImagineNATIVE and was produced by your wife, Jennifer Podemski. How's the reception been for that film?
I attended the screening for Empire of Dirt at the ScotiaBank theatre during TIFF. I think it sold out in like an hour or something. I have a small role, but after the movie a lot of people came up to me and congratulated me. It was an honor to work with Peter Stebbings and Cara Gee. Again, this is a movie that deals with the effects of residential school and this is an important issue that needs to be shared and discussed.
Are you a rapper who acts, or an actor who raps? How do you balance these different pursuits?
I'm a father first and I rap, act, direct, edit, produce, compose, promote and basically anything else that will help keep me from going crazy doing one job, every day, for the rest of my life. I need to diversify. It's the type of person I am. I cannot settle for monotony.
Are you working on more hip hop?
I'm currently working on a new album. No release date set yet, but it's about 90 percent recorded. I've also been working with Rellik and Nathan Cunningham on some tracks. It's a tough go being in the music industry and I sometimes feel that I'm grossly underrated, underpaid and underestimated. But still, I have a lot left to say before I even consider throwing in the towel. I have a very solid connection with my fans, and as far as hip hop and social issues go, there's not one person I know of who could fill my shoes. But I am keeping my eyes peeled.
For more on Bedard's musical career, visit IamPlex.com.