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Fuming over language

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Mar 02/05) - The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network's (APTN) new policy of requiring all future submissions for licensing to be dubbed (versioned) in multiple languages is meeting fierce resistance in Nunavut.

NNSL photo

Zacharias Kunuk says he's embarrassed by an APTN policy that demands aboriginal language films to be dubbed into other languages.

The policy would require a production shot in Inuktitut to have versions dubbed in English and/or French, as well as one or more other aboriginal languages.

With the new direction, sub-titling would no longer be acceptable.

Under the format, a production such as multi-award-winning Atanarjuat would not be acceptable in its present form.

Acclaimed Nunavut filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk is both angered and embarrassed by APTN's policy.

Kunuk said the work of Igloolik Isuma Productions has always been done in Inuktitut with other languages sub-titled and that's the way it will continue to be produced.

"Our work has been featured in more than 20 countries and this is the first time we've ever had to address this," said Kunuk.

"It's embarrassing because it's here in Canada."

Kunuk said Inuit filmmakers shouldn't be the ones responsible to wake up other cultures.

He said his focus is to see things, and present them, from an Inuit point of view.

"We're careful about what we do and don't like the idea of our programs being worked over to have Inuit characters sounding like someone different."

"It's an Inuk speaking Inuktitut. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand what we're saying.

"Our work has been accepted around the world, but now we have to make an aboriginal network understand where we're coming from?"

Isuma is not alone in its stance.

Arnait Video Productions (AVP) is an Iglulik-based collective of video producers whose productions will also continue to be shot in Inuktitut.

Its work has been shown around the world in Inuktitut, using English and French sub-titles.

In documents obtained by Kivalliq News, AVP's Marie-Helene Cousineau of Montreal states the APTN's new policy is disturbing.

"How ironic that APTN would refuse to license aboriginal languages films not

dubbed in English or French," said Cousineau.

"There will always be more than enough English programming on APTN and not enough aboriginal languages.

"Nunavut is about to get serious in developing a film-and-television industry.

"The politics of APTN regarding the issue of language is a barrier to the development of this industry and has to be discussed seriously between all involved in the production of aboriginal media in Canada."

Watching closely

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Jose Kusugak has experience in trying to dub Inuktitut features into English.

He said the national Inuit organization will be following the policy closely.

"If you use Atanarjuat for example, to hear Oki and Atanarjuat speaking in English would be totally embarrassing," said Kusugak.

"I've tried to dub Inuktitut speakers into English during my work with the Inuit Broadcasting Corp. and it's worse than a bad kung fu film.

"I can assure you this policy could possibly halt production from the Arctic."

Reach all aboriginals

CEO Jean LaRose said the APTN's mandate is to reach all aboriginal peoples, not one particular segment.

He said the network was set up to be reflective of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples and to share the stories amongst all of them.

"The purpose of this policy is not to embarrass Zacharias Kunuk or anybody else," says LaRose.

"We've been told by different aboriginal people that their languages are nowhere to be seen on the network, and they would like to hear these stories in their languages, too.

Larger audience

"If it's critical to Zacharias for the artistic value of his presentations that there is no language version, but sub-titling in other aboriginal languages, that's something we would consider.

"He sub-titled Atanarjuat so he could reach out to audiences around the world who understand English.

"APTN isn't asking him to do anything more dramatic than that."

LaRose said versioning would allow the APTN to reach a far-greater audience, including people with low reading skills.

"If you look at our schooling rates, a lot of people on reserves or in other parts of the country have basic primary school level and many don't have reading skills.

"They still can't understand a movie with sub-titles, but a language version would break that barrier."