Tracey Deer won international acclaim with her fact-based film Beans, about an indigenous mother and her two young daughters caught up in the landmark 1990 Oka Crisis in Quebec as Mohawks protested the destruction of their sacred burial grounds for a golf course. Deer directs episodes of Amazon Canada’s mystery series Three Pines, a police procedural, murder mystery series starring Alfred Molina that also deals with the tragedy of residential schools and the effect on a small town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Many threads bind this impressive show together; great characters, societal and culture clashes, discrimination, art, nature, and history. But the heart of Three Pines is its Canadianism. What She Said Anne Brodie spoke with Deer.
Three Pines is proudly Canadian – the culture, weather, and setting. What does it add to the series for you?
Not only that but everyone that worked on it was Canadian. So often stories that are from or about us get co-opted or made more general so it’s really, really great that it’s right here in our backyard and with me literally the Eastern Townships. I go there all the time, so it was great to feature our adorable, quaint small town. Quebec has all kinds of fabulous characters and to have them all peppered together, and playing off one another, the mysteries and intrigue and of course on my end, the indigenous storyline, which was and is current, and critical for us to talk and think about. That was the most important layer for me.
Did it upset you?
Absolutely, absolutely. While we were filming last fall, all the news (the discovery of unmarked graves of indigenous children on former residential school properties) was happening to all of us. It was really difficult but so important to bring the story and localise it to a larger audience.
Isn’t it great that it’s an Amazon’s Canada production and it will be seen globally, what Canada is like and Canada’s problems? Your direction is always elegant and I find it so compelling, and that too is Canadian I think.
That is one of the most beautiful comments I’ve ever gotten on my direction. Thank you, thank you.
You’ve had real success, particularly with Beans. Do you feel your mastery coming into flower now?
Absolutely. I love that you’re excited for me too. For the last twenty years, you’re aware of my career trajectory, the challenge has been making greatness from limited resources. A lot of us Canadian artists have to sometimes stretch, it’s like a magic act. What was incredible about this project was being given the resources to do exactly what I wanted to do. No one ever said no, my vision was expected and encouraged. And that was mind-blowing and freeing and an exciting experience.
Given that there have been previous shows set in small towns and villages, like Cabot Cove and Midsomer, Three Pines has to go on. I hope they continue it. Also, let’s not forget there are some good scares!
I’m glad that was effective, and there’s also humour, particularly, throughout it. It’s a show that has something for everyone.
The fascination of these small places that have these undercurrents that you don’t notice so much in the big city. The villages populate our entire country. It’s a rich mine to go to.
I think that the intimacy of that small town gives us the opportunity to dig into the good, the bad and the ugly of our society, and humanity and keep it very personal. Everything that’s going on in Three Pines is going on all over the place but we really get to know and connect with these people. As in life, everything is in shades of grey and that’s never so clear as in bad guy, good guy, black, white and I love that the series gives us all the shades of grey. Hopefully, if we get more seasons we’ll get to know more of the undercurrents going on with all these characters.
Cool! Thanks so much, Tracey. See you next season!
See you then!
Three Pines launches on Prime Video on December 2