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Wisdom on film

Daron Letts
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (July 11/05) - Filmmaker Jolene Arreak just returned to Iqaluit from Toronto where she mixed the audio for her new film, Words of Wisdom.

It is an episode of Strength In Words, an upcoming Inuit Communications Systems Ltd. (ICSL) six-part production for APTN.

The late Joanasie Arreak shared his legends, stories and experiences with his granddaughter and director Jolene Arreak. Arreak captured her grandfather's knowledge on film in Words of Wisdom.

The half-hour documentary offers a window into her relationship with her grandfather, the late Joanasie Arreak of Pond Inlet.

"Through storytelling, legends and his personal experiences, my grandfather taught me many things about life," she said. "He made me aware that, as Inuit, we are a distinct culture that values respect for others."

Arreak was raised by her grandparents in Pond Inlet. While studying in Nova Scotia, she was not able to return home for her grandmother's funeral in 2002.

Arreak's film records her reconnection with her grandfather as they visit her grandmother's grave site and their family camp.

She first pitched the documentary in 2003.

"I noticed that elders were dying and I always thought of capturing their stories on film, especially when most of the archival material in Nunavut is mostly audio," she said. "I wanted to use my experience to help preserve our elders' knowledge for the youth. My grandparents always said that we're starting not to understand each other because we watch too much TV, so I was looking for a way to make a connection and make it attractive for youth to learn from our elders."

Arreak's grandfather passed away in April. His funeral was held on Arreak's birthday.

"With this documentary I feel like I was a messenger," she said. "Luckily my grandfather got to see the rough cut of the film and he liked it."

Arreak began her filmmaking career as an intern at ICSL after leaving her bachelor of science program at the University College of Cape Breton due to overwhelming student debt. During the internship she worked with the Women's Television Network (now the W channel).

She soon completed ICSL workshops in Beta and DV camera operation. Then she took production workshops and directing courses in Ottawa.

After serving as an ICSL co-ordinator for southern film crews shooting in the North, she was promoted to general manager at the Iqaluit production office in January.

Arreak also directed a second documentary for the Strength in Words series. Looking Forward tells about elder Akeesho Joamie's experience of Iqaluit's changing cultural landscape.

Arreak plans to return to school in two years to complete her bachelor of science and pursue studies in child psychology.