I still vividly remember the first time I watched illustrious Nunavut filmmaker Zacharias Kunukís daring Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, the first film written, directed and acted entirely in the Inuktitut language.
Set in the frigid outdoors of Igloolik at the turn of the first millennium, Atanarjuat tells a centuries-old Inuit legend passed down orally from generation to generation. Shot in the Eastern Arctic wilderness, the filmís visuals are all-consuming and so thoroughly foreign to what the average movie-goer is accustomed to.
The highest grossing Canadian picture of 2002, Atanarjuat achieved what so many of the best films do: presenting a perspective that the viewer has never seen or better yet, never even knew existed.
Itís an understatement to say that the majority of Canadians donít know much about Inuit culture, traditions and values ó myself included. A more cynical view would be that most Canadians donít really care to learn, but fortunately, Kunuk has committed to telling compelling, authentic Inuit stories told with the help of the Inuit themselves throughout his long career.
Itís a trend that Kunuk is continuing with one of the more innovative multimedia projects Iíve ever come across, called Digital Indigenous Democracy (DID), which aims to put the power of consensus into the hands of 10 remote Inuit northern communities. (I owe a huge debt to Globe and Mail reporter Robert Everett-Green for his meticulously researched article on this topic from Jan. 17.)
The concept was first formed in 2012 when an Inuit community on Baffin Island faced a $6-billion environmental review of a proposed iron mine. Thanks to Kunukís intervention, which saw him present dozens of call-in radio shows and video interviews with affected residents, the project has since been scaled back and even comes with a legal obligation to include future multimedia consultation.
The main issue for these isolated communities is a lack of affordable Internet service. That means residents in small Inuit enclaves often have to resort to communicating online using only text in a language many arenít fluent in, barring full access to potential online resources and communication channels that could impact their political and social decision making process.
Digital Indigenous Democracy looks to level the playing field by installing comparatively cheap media players in 10 communities where residents can instantly stream over 5,000 videos in 50 different languages from the Isuma TV catalogue, a film company Kunuk co-founded. The collection is mostly driven by Inuit culture, and includes everything from musical performances to hunting clips to full-length feature films. It also gives the opportunity to Inuit filmmakers, like the film society currently thriving in the small town of Arviat, to upload and show their own work.
Itís an initiative from which the rest of Canada could learn a thing or two. Even in our current Internet age, with smartphone-sporting pre-teens and a culture of online oversharing, we need to ask ourselves if weíre really using the digital tools at our disposal in a productive manner.
Just as the outside world learned about the refreshing simplicities of Inuit life after Kunukís Atanarjuat, we can look back to those northern communities in order to glean some insight on how to exist and thrive in our own digital era.
Asian cooking classes with Whistler Community Services
Learn to master a handful of Japanese culinary staples, like tofu, beef stew and spinach gomae, at Whistler Community Servicesí latest cooking classes on Tuesday (Jan. 28).
The following Monday (Feb. 3) will be a traditional Chinese cooking class where you can learn to make Chinese dumplings using a variety of fillings.
Both classes cost $10 and are taking place at the Community Kitchens at 1519 Spring Creek Drive. They begin at 6 p.m.
Call 604-935-7717 to register now.
The Crash Reel: A moving tale of recovery
One of the most poignant documentaries of 2013, The Crash Reel by Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker details the harrowing journey of recovery by former pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce.
A long-time rival of Shaun White, Pearceís promising career was cut short after he suffered a devastating brain injury in training just weeks before the start of the 2010 Olympics.
Fortunately, the charismatic Americanís story didnít end there and he has since become a leading voice in the fight to raise awareness of the impacts of traumatic head injuries.
This moving film plays Millennium Place on Wednesday (Jan. 29) at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $8 and available at www.artswhistler.com or by calling 604-935-8410.
Kickstart your writing Pembertonians
Local author and creative writing instructor Rebecca Wood Barrett leads a discussion on the value of writing groups and the Pemberton literary community on Wednesday.
The discussion, which will be held at the Pemberton Library at 7 p.m., is a great chance to meet other local scribes and advance your own writing. Free.
Bully screens at Millennium Place
The Whistler Arts Council continues their commitment to screening some of the most thought-provoking docs around on Thursday (Jan. 30) with 2011 film, Bully at Millennium Place.
Directed by Emmy-award winner Lee Hirsch, Bully links the narratives of five students facing bullying on a regular basis.
The screening begins at 7 p.m. and tickets are $8.