Week Four – Media Production and Inuit Self-Determination

“Untitled” by Ningiukulu Teevee (Courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts, published in “The More Connected We Become”)

The act of watching, who is being watched and by whom, is as we’ve discussed the last few weeks, a key issue in films made in and about Nunavut. This week, we’ll look at the 2014 film My Father’s Land (Attatama Nunanga) and a collection of hand-drawn artworks in “The More Connected We Become” about media, landscape, and sovereignty.

When we originally programmed this week, we were thinking about Mayor Madeleine Redfern’s assertion that self-governance in Nunavut depends on access to media. In Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss’s short article, “The More Connected We Become,” we find a series of Inuit artworks about different forms of connectivity—the technological (televisions, digital cameras), as well as the colonial. In her introduction to the series, Enuaraq-Strauss explains how Inuit art practices have responded to and incorporated these technologies and southern/settler practices.

However, given our conversations over the last few sessions, we’d like to refocus a little this week from media production to the ways that these two texts center Inuit acts of looking and representation. In contrast to Arctic Defenders which, as many of you pointed out, still framed Inuit stories through the perspective (and onscreen narration) of a white settler filmmaker, My Father’s Land is made by and through an Inuit perspective.  Co-directed by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, the documentary focuses on Inuit history, media, and contemporary mining projects in North Baffin Island. Moving between past and present, Kunuk and Cohn focus on the consultation process for the Mary River proposal to build the largest iron mine in Inuit Nunangat in 2012, between Igloolik and Pond Inlet.

Zacharias Kunuk depicted in My Father’s Land (© Isuma Distribution International)

My Father’s Land is also an Isuma production. Igloolik Isuma Productions was the first Inuit production company in the country, founded in Nunavut in 1990. As an artist collective and independent production company, Isuma’s mission (according to their website) is to “to preserve and enhance Inuit culture and language; to create jobs and economic development in Igloolik and Nunavut; and to tell authentic Inuit stories to Inuit and non-Inuit audiences worldwide.” Some of you may be familiar with the company’s first production, Atanarjuat The Fast Runner (1999), Canada’s first Indigenous-language feature-length film and recipient of numerous international awards. (If you haven’t seen Atanarjuat, we’d encourage you to do so!)

You can find clips of My Father’s Land online at Isuma TV.

In our discussions of the film and the hand-drawn artwork, we’d like to continue to think about the method of what we are doing in Reading to Decolonize. As we’ve discussed in previous sessions, decolonization is an ongoing process. As something we are working towards, we must also consider how we are preparing ourselves to participate in and facilitate this process. How (if at all) do these films help us prepare in that way?