Names for Snow: An Interview with Rebecca Thomassie

By October 27, 2019Profile

Names for Snow (2018) COURTESY WAPIKONI

In her directorial debut Names for Snow, emerging filmmaker Rebecca Thomassie travels into the land around Kangirsuk and learns around 52 names for different types of snow that exist in Inuktitut. She then passes on this knowledge to her young daughter for an uplifting tale of cultural perseverance. To mark the films premiere at the imagineNATIVE film festival, which closes today, the IAQ‘s Online Editor Laura Stanley spoke with Thomassie.

Laura Stanley: Where did the idea for Names for Snow come from? 

Rebecca Thomassie: There was a seal skin kamik making workshop that I attended that was happening at the same time as a Wapokani workshop. I had my baby with me during the seal skin kamik workshop and that wasn’t working out so I then checked-in with Wapokani, which I was introduced to through my cousin, Olivia Thomassie, and began asking questions about making a documentary. I didn’t have any idea of what film to make and so I prayed asking for an idea, and right away I got the answer “snow”; and thought it was a good idea since it is interesting to show it to the world.

LS: How do you feel about Names for Snow getting its world premiere at imagineNATIVE? Are you nervous or excited?

RT: I’m not really nervous, I’m just happy to be here. I’m happy.

LS: In the documentary, a man teaches you different names for snow in Inuktitut. Who is that?

RT: That’s Tommy Kudlak. He is a young elder. He is a sergeant of the Canadian Rangers and  a very talented man.

LS: What’s your favourite name for snow?

RT: Arnangualijuq. It means large snowflakes falling.

LS: The documentary is all about learning and teaching the next generation. Why is this an important story to tell? 

RT: It’s important to share with other people that there is not just one name for snow. It’s good when you’re going on the land. It’s good to know this stuff to survive.

LS: Do you also want your daughter to learn Inuktitut? Or does she already?

RT: Inuttitut is our main language at home.

LS: Do you have any future projects that you’re working on? 

RT: I was thinking, because there are so many names for snow, of sharing the rest that I couldn’t share in this short film. I am also thinking about making a documentary on fishing. I love to fish. I want to share how fun it is and how therapeutic it is. The fish, like arctic char, are beautiful and big. Fishing is fun, it’s our game.

LS: What do you want viewers to learn by watching Names for Snow?

RT: Watch and learn.

This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.

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