Arctic Defenders (Opening Night Film)
Borne from director John Walker’s lifelong love and his youthful infatuation with “Eskimo” culture and artwork, this disarmingly poignant look at First Nations families relocated decades earlier with hopes of establishing Canadian sovereignty in the literal Great White North balances the personal and the political with great and subtle dexterity.
From his own childhood, a working trip to Resolute Bay in his teens, and his current inquiry into the formation of Nunavut and other northern First Nations communities, Walker brings a genuine engagement to his examination into the lives of people who were relocated simply to act as placeholders. These are people who in many cases are making the absolute best of their situations (with many people being talked to acting shockingly happy and in many cases optimistic), and who starting in 1968 were placed there as human flags starting in instead of actually being there for a legitimate reason.
That’s all intriguingly fleshed out and informative enough, but the real heart of the film comes from talks with Oo Aqpik and various other titular “defenders” of the Inuit culture who created lands and communities in their own image as a way of rejecting the reasons Canadians wanted a presence in the North in the first place. It’s the rare example of a personal documentary, made by an outsider, that isn’t condescending or cloying. Walker goes the extra mile to show the human side of arctic living without sugar coating the past.
Thursday, November 21st, 5:30pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox