Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
Today the film festival showed 3 movies, each focusing on political issues impacting the north. Whether it’s climate change, LBGT issues or aboriginal rights, each of these issues have either impacted northerners in the past or are impacting them now.
PERMAFROST OF THE PEEL PLATEAU
“30 years ago, Climate change was just a word”
That is what Tetlit Gwich’in community member Clifford Vaneltsi recalls. But now, it impacts the north with full force. Since April, there have been hundreds of forest fires across the land. Not only that, but a variety of lakes and rivers have been impacted by drought. In the area of Peel Plateau, the permafrost is melting, causing the landscape to crumble and the ground to turn into sludge. The area of Peel Plateau is the subject of this 17 minute documentary from Ecology North.
Most of the focus centres on the scientists and community members who study the effects of climate change. The film goes into details of how scientists study an area and examine impact. Whether it’s examining the number of bugs in the water to the way brushes affect a road, Each study serves a means to understand impact and hopefully change our behavior. In the case of roads, the study presents how the road dust affects the brush beside them and how the brush affects the road in return.
From the environmental issues of now to the LBGT rights of the past, we now go to a surreal short film about forbidden love.
Set in a remote arctic outpost camp during the 1950s, the film begins with a wedding between groom Pitsiulaaq (Franco Buscemi) and bride Viivi (Malaya Qaunirq Chapman). It seems like a regular wedding, but the image of an inuit couple being married off by a white preacher speaking inuit while surrounded by two mounties makes it feel a little off.
The next to be expected to marry is Ulluriaq (Miali Buscemi). Johnny (Paul Nutarariaq) is insistant on marrying her, but after rejecting 3 suitors, Ulluriaq doesn’t want to get married. Besides, doing so would involve her moving out of the camp, which she considers her home. But her mother pressures her to accept Johnny’s proposal, saying they all plan to move to the city.
The only affection Ulluriaq has is for Viivi, who returns the affections. Viivi herself is torn between her forbidden love and a need to maintain the status quo. At first, they attempt to form a secret three way marriage with Pitsiulaaq. Unfortunately, society’s binds are too strong.
The film deals with the subject of gay people having to repress their true selves in a time that saw homosexuality as not only a disease but a crime. Both Buscemi and Chapman do a good job of conveying the affection their characters have for each other and their attempts to find ways to stay together. The film also looks at the pressures women have to face to conform to social norms. Ulluriaq is pressured to marry Johnny not because of love, but because he has a good job. The fact that everyone’s expected to move into the city suggests the pressures of assimilation at the expense of aboriginal culture.
I don’t know whether it’s the delivery of the film’s tone or me growing up in a more tolerant society, but this film comes off as weird to me. Why are there mounties at the wedding in the opening scene? Are they friends of the characters or are they enforcing some law? And then there’s the scene where Ulluriaq and Viivi convince Pitsiulaaq to let them stay. Pitsiulaaq seems a little too accepting of this proposal, at least so quickly. Viivi claims her husband’s clueless about love. But I don’t know, the way he accepts their proposal’s still a little strange.
I can’t tell if director Aletha Arnaquq-Bari is going for heightened reality or if the practices of the authorities were of the time. I don’t know how much of the film is subject of its time or a creative decision by the director. Whatever it is, I don’t quite know what to make of the film.
And we get to the first feature length film of the festival, which I will dicuss in the next review.