Three of a kind join forces
Trilogy combines both old and new aspects of Northern life
NNSL (Oct 18/99) - A well-made documentary should present facts artfully.
It isn't enough to simply lay out information gathered in research. There must be a reason for the research in the first place, and that reason becomes the context and passion that drives the work.
The trilogy Kitikmeot by Quebecois filmmaker Vic Pelletier (written by David Pelly, resident of Cambridge Bay) achieves that. The driving force seems to be the life of the elders of the Kitikmeot region and the phrase "the future cannot forget the past."
Rather than glorifying or entirely romanticizing what once was and is no longer, the three films -- The Journey of the Stone, The Drum Dancer and Uvajuq, The Origin of Death -- combine images of a time gone by with familiar modern images.
There are dog teams and snowmobiles, power carving tools and traditional tools for preparing skins, young people in a modern gym learning old dances.
This concept of past and present merging for the future of a culture repeats itself in all three films. The Journey of the Stone traces Cambridge Bay carver Inuk Charlie's search for the right piece of stone (weighing 103 kg) right through to the finished carving.
We spend time with his father, the late Charlie Ugyuk, world-renowned master carver, and with an elder as she recounts the legend of the woman who adopted a polar bear cub. This legend would be the basis of Inuk's carving.
In The Drum Dancer, we see the making of a drum. We see two elders making a drum. Later we see the tradition reborn in the youth of a community, where one young girl says:
"It's better than smoking drugs or drinking, that's for sure."
In that one moment, the dangers inherent in the loss of tradition hit home and we are reminded by the narrator that tradition, in today's world, may not have all the answers as it once did, but it certainly has a few helpful hints.
The third film has a more magical quality than the two previous ones. Perhaps because it is the story of legendary giants -- giants who no longer exist and certainly could not be filmed.
Instead the exquisite artwork of Elsie Anaginak Klengenberg illustrates the story. The illustrated story, framed by a trip a few elders take to the legendary location of the giant's death, takes the mythical into the real-world present day. Very powerful stuff!
Throughout all three films, the relationship between the people and the land is emphasized but not romanticized. This is realized through the inclusion of all that is modern in arctic life today.
The three films will be broadcast in the future -- stay tuned for further details -- and will be presented at the Far North Film Festival taking place Nov. 12-13 in Yellowknife. Writer David Pelly will be in town for the occasion.