How it All Started
This film was an unexpected journey. I didn’t set out to make a film. I’m a researcher, not a filmmaker, and didn’t anticipate being anything other than a researcher. But this work, and my community partners, had other ideas. It all started five years ago, when I began working with Inuit in Nunatsiavut, Labrador on community-based and community-led research examining on changes in climate and environment were affecting Inuit livelihoods, cultures, and subsequently, health and wellbeing. Working in this region, in some of the most stunningly beautiful landscapes imaginably, with some of the most amazing people one could ever hope to meet, has been not only a great pleasure and privilege, but an incredibly transformative experience. Having the opportunity to work with Inuit, to learn from their wisdom and experiences, to share stories, and to go out on the land has altered how I understand human connections with the natural world, and has added urgency to my research and my work.
This was a story that people wanted to tell. And it was a story they wanted to share with a lot of people, through a format that was easily shared, visually-powerful, and emotive. So that is how I found myself in January 2013, with no previous film experience, beginning the unexpected journey of working with Inuit in Nain, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik, and Rigolet to share the voices and stories of Inuit in Nunatsiavut about Inuit connections to the land, the changes experienced through climate change, and the mental, emotional, and spiritual impacts that emerge from these changes.
The filming took place in and around all five Nunatsiavut communities. Armed with only a Canon VIXIA HFM52 (a workhorse of a camera!) and a desire to do justice to the wisdom and voices of my colleagues, I filmed inside and outside, in as cold as -55 degrees Celsius. I got frostbite. Twice. I fell off the back of a skidoo. I fell off the back of a komatik (the sled pulled behind the skidoo or dog team), and I slipped on sea ice more times than I can count. I froze the camera. I broke the tripod. And I froze the camera again. I got to film some of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen. And I had the honour of bearing witness to powerful and moving testimonies, as Inuit generously shared their wisdom with me on film.
Once the interviews and the filming were complete, and initial storyboarding with communities took place, the editing process began. I was lucky to team up with an emerging filmmaker in Cape Breton, Jenni Welsh, to work on this project, and together, we have dedicated hundreds of hours to the crafting and editing of this film—especially Jenni! She has done a tremendous job in bringing out the final storyline and making the voices shine. The real challenge was to decide what interview footage to use, and almost all of it was usable, and full of powerful words of wisdom. (As a compendium to this film, we are producing a multi-media website that contains longer versions of the interviews.)
This film was also a collaborative editing process with people from Nunatsiavut too, and it went through multi stages. When we had a rough cut of the audio, all 24 people featured in this film were given the opportunity to listen, make comments, and provide suggestions for improvement. Once that stage was complete, it was time to start adding b-roll and establishing shots to accompany the narrative. Again, once we had a rough cut, all 24 participants were again given the opportunity to view it and make comments and suggestions, which were then incorporated into a penultimate draft.
And then it was time to take the show on the road! In March 2014, I toured the film in all five communities in Nunatsiavut, holding community screenings to give people the opportunity to see the film and make suggestions for improvement. It was also a way to make sure that the story we were telling was the story that people wanted told; that it reflected the Nunatsiavut Inuit experience. And it reflected what they wanted others to know about what was happening with climate change in their communities, and how it was making people feel. We had over 150 people attend these screenings, and provided a compiled list of over 50 changes. With these edits, we completed a cut that was ready to show publicly. We launched this film in May 2014 at the International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences in Prince George, British Columbia. With an audience of Indigenous leaders, policy makers, government representatives, and researchers in attendance, we shared this labour of love with great excitement and anticipation. And the reception was more than we could have hoped, the story and experiences ringing true among the audience.
And now, it’s time to share it with you.
This is not a flashy film. It’s not a highly produced film. It is a raw film about a raw story. A story that needs to be told. A story that is as much local as it is global. A story that reminds us of our intrinsic connections to the land and environment, and warns us about what happens if we fail to take action to mitigate climate change and other environmental degradation. And it is a story about the endurance, wisdom, and beauty of a culture that can inspire us all.
We hope you enjoy this story even half as much as we enjoyed the journey making it. It’s been one hell of a trip!
I also encourage you to visit the site for more extended interviews, visuals, and articles.