Presented by 2017 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and Isuma Distribution International
16 – 21 October 2017
20 October 2017, 7PM: Curatorial Talk
After 30 years of industry-changing video production in Nunavut, Igloolik’s Isuma production company is still going strong. This milestone presents an opportunity to take a look at what has been accomplished over these three decades through two special presentations at this year’s imagineNATIVE: a shorts program of video works by Isuma, Arnait Video Collective and Artcirq, and an exhibition of artworks that were created for and inspired by Inuit film and video productions. Isuma has contributed an incomparable body of work to contemporary Inuit visual culture. Channel 51: Igloolik is a year-round, national celebration of this important anniversary. For more info, visit www.isuma.tv/retrospective.
CHANNEL 51: IGLOOLIK
THE FILMMAKING PROCESS
ESSAY BY ISABELLA WEETALUKTUK
This year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Isuma, Igloolik’s video art initiative. This anniversary presents an opportunity to take a look at what has been accomplished over the years. Isuma has contributed an incomparable body of work to contemporary Inuit visual culture. The core of this retrospective is an invitation to rediscover 40 plus video works from Isuma, the Arnait collective and Artcirq.
In this exhibition, Channel 51: Igloolik – The Filmmaking Process it is an honour to share objects and photographs from Isuma’s collection. These materials enable viewers to see the fruit of countless hours of research, writing, hunting, tanning, stitching and beading as well as, of course filming. The hours spent by “inu-vative” minds and hands manifest themselves in these objects and photographs. A blanket from the Arnait films Unakuluk is one of the featured objects. This blanket stitches together various stories of adoption; felt shapes of people and animals depicting a vast mosaic of rich and beautiful lives, all touched in one way or another by the act of adoption. Though – as much is in life – stories of adoption are not easy, we see in the film, the blanket and stories, so much love. I see this same care go into the creation of props and costumes. Objects are re-created for many of the films to be set in the time period required of the stories, and offer a unique mix of interest as both film paraphernalia and historical objects.
Included in this show are combs, knives, bags and a few garments. These objects are able to be re-created through research, memory and hard work. The most curious part of the collection – excluding a pair of special effects feet – are three carvings. Sculpted by James Ungalaq, Natar Ungalaq and Zacharias Kunuk, this trilogy in stone offer vignettes of striking moments from the iconic film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.
To complement the objects, and provide the context for them, the exhibition is also composed of a collection of photographs. It’s no surprise that film sets are a magnet for creative people, so over the years a superb archive of photographs have been created, capturing pre-production, costume designing and so much more. The photographs are connected to create a rough timeline of life in production. The artful consideration of some of the shots in this collection draw you into their singular world. On the more practical side, things like makeup and costumes were important to document and to make sure there was continuity from shot to shot. Casting Polaroids from older productions also offer a strong taste of nostalgia…and a laugh. For the film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen a companion website documented the real people and events behind the story and life on set, all the while it was being filmed. This initiative created a wealth of photos from the development and production of this film.
From the fun, the practical and the artistic, a range of photographs exist in Isuma’s archives. It’s especially nice to see the shots that capture the spirit on set. New film technology meeting age-old clothing and Inuk technology create photographs that say more than a thousand words! This collection of photographs is a glimpse into the moments that so many creative voices have put their time into. While looking at the photographs, I invite viewers to remember there are lives happening before and after the moment that is caught on camera. And that so many people gave so many hours of their lives to the cause of filmmaking!
Especially when it comes to film, to make ideas become something, you need to find a team that will help you to pull the idea forward. Each person helps breathe life into the story, until the moment after the last sound mix and colour correction, when at long last you have yourself a film! After 30 years of filmmaking, the filmmaking process is more of a lifestyle for this juggernaut.
A common analogy Inuit use is that of the dogsled, each person pulling with weight moving in a common direction. It is in this way a film production moves forward.
Suspended in the gallery is one dog harness, a reminder of all the work done together, in film and in life to help and pull Inuit forward. It is an invitation for us all to keep on going. When we celebrate these years of production, we also celebrate this team. Congratulations to all those who have been involved.
Curator Isabella Weetaluktuk is an Inuk filmmaker and visual artist from Nunavik. She grew up in Montreal and attended NSCAD University in Halifax, earning a BFA in 2015. Isabella has completed her first film with the National Film Board, Three Thousand, which is screening at this year’s Festival. In August 2016 she co-curated a three-evening film festival of Inuit films, games and country food with co-curator Stephen Agluvak Puskas. Isabella’s work moves to honour the past and think towards the future.