As preview week for the 58th Venice Biennale approaches and Isuma prepares to take centre stage at the Canada Pavilion, we are highlighting the many artists, directors, filmmakers and performers outside the Giardini. From experimental shorts and animations to inspiring feature length productions, here are our picks for must-see film and video works by creators throughout Inuit Nunangat on view across Canada and online during the course of the Venice Biennale.
The Grizzlies (2018)
Set in 2004 in Kugluktuk, NU, The Grizzlies—directed by Miranda de Pencier and produced by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Stacey Aglok and de Pencier— follows the true events of a community transformed by both the power of sport and the leadership of its youth. The film tells the story of a young teacher from southern Canada who brings lacrosse to a group of high school students, all of whom are touched by the continued effects of colonial and intergenerational trauma during a period where the community faced one of the highest rates of suicide in the country. Instead of centring on the teacher, the feature highlights how the students connect with each other through sport while shaping their community in the process. Now playing in theatres across Canada, The Grizzlies is a must-see starring numerous Indigenous youth whose powerful performances create a vivid retelling of this vital story.
-Ashley McLellan, Profiles Editor
Timiga, Nunalu Sikulu (My Body, the Land and the Ice) (2016)
Timiga, Nunalu Sikulu (My Body, the Land and the Ice) (2016), a collaboration between Iqaluit-based Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, digital artist Jamie Griffiths, composer Chris Coleman and vocalist Celina Kalluk, opens by intimately tracing the contours of the tundra at the edge of winter. The camera eventually reaches the artist as she deliberately mimics an art historical nude, reclining across a pelt, her back toward us, observing the planes of ice beyond. Upon approach, she quickly turns to face the viewer revealing a uaajeerneq mask: a lasting image that confronts our assumptions as well as access to northern landscapes and those who inhabit them. The film is included in ᐊᕙᑖᓂᑦᑕᒪᐃᓐᓂᑦᓄᓇᑐᐃᓐᓇᓂᑦ Among All These Tundras, on view this summer at the Esker Foundation in Calgary, AB.
-Evan Pavka, Managing Editor
Take a few minutes of your day and watch this incredible animated retelling of the Nunatsiavummiut story of a polar bear turned to stone by a shaman. Available online from the National Film Board of Canada, Shaman (2017) by Labrador visual artist Echo Henoche is beautifully, if not sparsely, illustrated. The legend, passed down to the artist from her grandmother, tells of a powerful shaman who takes on a particularly menacing polar bear who has been terrorizing the community. This short film says plenty in its little over 3 minute runtime—about enemies that live in our midst and threaten our daily lives, and about the power of perspective. In her own way, the artist achieves storytelling matching that of her ancestors.
-Christa Ouimet, Development Manager
If The Weather Permits (2003)
Though now well-known for her music, Elisapie Isaac made her directorial debut with the documentary short If the Weather Permits in 2003. Her warm, rhythmic voice narrates over misty shots of Kangirsujuaq, QC, and asks local residents questions about the past and their hopes for the future. Time is collapsed in the film as historical documentation and interviews are carefully woven together with modern footage. In a powerful scene, Isaac intercuts black and white footage of a hunter at a seal hole with a group of young men gathered around a television playing video games, articulating the rapid changes that have impacted life in the North. One of the most powerful sentiments of the film is summed up beautiful by a quote from Isaac’s grandfather, “To avoid getting lost, keep an eye on where you’re coming from”.
-John Geoghegan, Senior Editor
Tia and Piujuq (2018)
Set between Montreal, QC and Iglulik, NU, Lucy Tulugarjuk’s directorial debut Tia and Piujuq (2018) tackles issues of displacement, loss, identity and love through a profoundly intimate look at the bonds of friendship between Tia (Tia Bishara), a young Syrian girl new to Montreal, and Piujuq (Nuvvija Tulugarjuk), an Inuk girl spending the summer with her Grandmother (Madeline Ivalu) in a camp outside of Iglulik. After stumbling across a magic portal, Tia is spirited away to the Arctic where she quickly forms a lasting link with Piujuq as the pair navigate a number of magical encounters with figures from Inuit stories. The film has toured extensively across the North as well as internationally, receiving numerous accolades along the way, and is a must-see for children and adults both.
-Evan Pavka, Managing Editor