portrait of children

The set

Last big days out

-August 9th

Sunday and Monday the team went out to Avaja to film the last big outdoor scenes. Sunday the team shot one of the final scenes, the dramatic climax of the film involving Barrie (played by Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq) and the two boys Tomas and Travis. It was therefore extremely important to get it right. The team was waiting for a streak of clear sunny and warm weather because, among other things, the scene involves someone going in the water (I won’t give more details to avoid spoilers). The water here is just above freezing, so it is really important to do it on a warm day. This summer the weather has been less than cooperative, and everyone was demoralized on Saturday when the forecast predicted a week of rain and clouds.  Saturday the team shot some interior scenes, including a scene at the Tujurmivik Hotel restaurant (where the crew has been getting their meals on shooting days) and the Igloolik CO-OP.

Setting-up the restaurant dining area.








Marianne Farley getting ready for her scene. 









Somehow filming in the aisles of the CO-OP really stood out for me and reminded me how exciting it is to be making a contemporary film in Igloolik. I remember going to the CO-OP when I was a kid. My memory of the place is tied with memories of a childhood passed in Igloolik. For most of the crew, people who have not spent time here before, it probably feels like any set location. But for those who have lived or live here, people who know the place, it will surely have another meaning. So far the community has been extremely supportive of the film project. Lots of people are visiting our facebook page, looking at our pictures, and when we shoot on the streets people always stop by to watch, everyone is excited to see their town shown in a contemporary setting, talking about realities that they can relate to. I think when people see the places they frequent daily and their community as it looks today, represented in a dignified and honest way, they will really get a kick out of it.

At the CO-OP.








Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Marianne Farley and Neeve Uttak. Neeve, who plays the cashier in this scene, played important roles in both Atarnajuat: The Fast Runner, and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. 







In aisle three next to the Fruit Loops, artistic director Susan Avingaq watches the scene through the monitor. 








Marie-Hélène Cousineau and assistant director Jolene Arreak.








Then we all got some fantastic news, the weather had turned and the next two days were supposed to be sunny. We are on for Avaja. We head out in the morning in high spirits, five boats set off for Avaja. We are not going far into the islands, but only to a beach close by. We could still see the Igloolik airport from where we were.


Our little caravan of boats approaching the beach under bluebird skies.








Travis (who plays Travis) and Lukasi (who plays Tomas) being silly. 








Lukasi and Travis go over their scene with Marie-Hélène. 









The crew filming by the water’s edge as the wind starts to pick up.  In the distance are other parts of the Avaja islands. On the far left is the Canadian mainland (Melville Peninsula). 


The last scene of the day was very intense. As I previously mentioned, it involved Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq plunging into the frigid water. He had a wetsuit to keep him relatively warm, but there was no way he was not going to get cold, except for a large dry suit which would not fit under his clothes. For these reasons there could only be one take. Everything had to work the first time.

Everyone at the camp that day was curious to see how the scene was going to unfold. 

The guy in the odd red suit is Guillaume Saladin, founder of the Artcirq circus troupe. What he is wearing is a dry suit for scuba diving. It certainly looked ridiculous (especially the hands, they looked like claws) and people were joking about the suit all day, calling him « the alien. » But it really was helpful, as he was able to go into the water and check on Peter-Henry to make sure he was okay.

« The alien » walks down to join the crew. 






Peter-Henry coming out of the water completely soaked but happy.






Peter-Henry and Travis in the boat.


After the final boat scene we packed up and got ready to leave. Everyone was exhausted, but happy that the day went well. The sky was mesmerizingly beautiful as the sun was setting casting a orange glow on the water. The days are getting darker now here. Everyday the sun sets 20 minutes earlier. By the beginning of November the sun no longer rises. But in mid-August the sunsets are absolutely stunning. We return to Igloolik for a good night’s rest in order to prepare for another long day at Avaja tomorrow.


The next day we head back out to Avaja to film the last camp scenes. This time we set up our camp a little less far than the previous day. We set-up on a beach next to an old abandoned church. The Avaja church was built in the 1940s, and was one of the first attempts at making a settlement in the Igloolik region before the town started to be built on the island of Igloolik.

The church has long been abandoned and has fallen into complete disrepair, subject the the weathering of time in a hostile environment. 

I walked up the hill from the beach to the church. It is in a really beautiful location, on top of a little hill overlooking the mountains to the left, and the water and the island of Igloolik to the center and right. The ground is covered in little purple flowers and vivid green moss and plants.

The church looking out over the water and Igloolik in the distance.


Walking inside this old church feels like walking back in time (if you ignore all the graffiti on the walls). I wonder what it must have felt for people to come here in the 40s. Few people had had encounters with white people. Now people were coming in contact with missionaries, being introduced to Christianity. Missionaries telling Inuit that their traditional customs and beliefs were wrong, that it was false worship, that they would go to hell if they didn’t convert to Christianity. Strangers telling them what they should and should not do. All of this happened so quickly, it must have been quite troubling. 


The entrance of the church.









The scenes that had to be shot were small scenes from the camp, scenes of camp life. But everyone was quite tired, exhausted from the previous day and time went by slowly. But everyone tried to remain in high spirits.


Susan Avingaq cutting up some fish to dry. 








Marie-Hélène, script Ashley Duong and Félix. 








One of our boat drivers, Terry Uyarak, had caught a walrus a week ago. Here you can see the head of the walrus soaking in a barrel of hot water to boil the meat off. Once the meat falls off, he will treat the skull with bleach to make the bone nice and white.






Marianne Farley and Pakak Innukshuk in a scene.








Marie-Hélène teasing Lukasi.








John Arnatsiaq (who plays the hunter Lukassi in the film) eating the fish Susan dried earlier for a scene with Lukasi Forest and Travis Kunnuk.







By the end of the evening it was dark and cold outside. We hurriedly wrapped-up and headed back to town exhausted but relieved to be finished with the big outdoor scenes. Awaiting us was a well-deserved two day break. After that there would only be two days left of shooting.



Busy week in Igloolik PART 2

Here is part 2.

So that was the big news last week in Igloolik. On the movie front, things continue to run smoothly. Last week the crew finished most of the interior and town scenes, and there are only a couple of big days of shooting left! The main concern is with the camping scenes. Here the team is completely dependent on the weather. They need about three or four days of good weather to complete these scenes. This summer the weather has been difficult to work with, and a streak of good weather has been hard to find. The team plans on filming at Avaja, a beautiful group of islands just east of Igloolik.

The islands of Avaja


Last week the crew shot some important scenes in town, including a confrontation between Barrie and Travis.

Barrie, Travis and Sheba in the confrontation scene.







The crew set up in the streets of Igloolik.







Onlookers stop to watch the scene. 







Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq (Barrie) and Travis Kunnuk (Travis). 


The crew also filmed a seal hunting scene. They took a couple of boats and spent the evening boating around Igloolik and near Avaja. Most of the crew and equipment was on one boat, and the filming was tricky because of all the camera equipment but they managed and took some beautiful shots. They went on a warm and sunny day, perfect for boating because even on a warm and sunny day it can get quite cold out on the water.

Marie-Helene and the team getting prepared to leave by boat.






Pakak Innukshuk and Marianne Farley getting ready to leave.






The filming boat. The other boats two boats were for carrying equipment and extra people. But the cameraman, sound, actors in the scene, and director Marie-Helene were all on this boat. 





View of Igloolik from out in the bay. 

Filming on the boat.




Busy week in Igloolik PART 1

-July 27

(I decided to split this post into two parts).

Last week was a busy one in Igloolik. There is a second filming crew that arrived last weekend to work on a documentary. The documentary is made by Zacharias Kunuk and Ian Mauro, who together made the 2010 documentary Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change. Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change is an amazing and groundbreaking documentary which shows through interviews and trips on the land, climate change from the unique perspective of Inuit, who have over 4,000 years of expert knowledge of the Arctic environment. They are teeming up again to make another documentary, this time focusing on an area on Baffin Island where a large scale mining project is expecting to begin in the fall. The mine will be one of the largest iron mines in the world, and will necessitate a 140 kilometre railway across Baffin Island to carry the ore from the mine to a deep water port with a year round shipping route. The sea route will be used by giant supertankers that will be filled with iron ore every two days, breaking through the sea pack when the ocean is not free of ice. The shipping route passes through the fragile calving grounds of seal, bowhead, narwhal, and walrus. The area is the largest concentration of walrus in the Arctic. There are also large bird populations in the islands around the proposed port, and significant Polar Bear populations too. The environmental consequences of this project will no doubt be significant. Zacharias Kunuk and Ian  Mauro are traveling to the area where the proposed port will be developed in order to film the land and wildlife prior to the beginning of the project, as a way of showing how multi-media tools can be used to effectively monitor wildlife and environmental impacts. But the trip will also involve families of people who grew up in the area where the port and railway will be built. It will surely be an emotional trip for those returning to the land they grew up in to it see it before it is potentially radically altered forever.

This brings me to the other important thing that happened in Igloolik this week; the mining hearings. The company in charge of the mining project mentioned earlier, Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, set up hearings in three communities (Iqaluit, Igloolik, and Pond Inlet).

The hearings were part of an Environmental Impact Review Process, where a board listens to presentations from different governmental organizations regarding Baffinland’s Environmental Impact Statement. In the end they make a decision whether they believe the project should go forward. The hearings in Igloolik lasted three days. On the second and third day, people from the community were allowed to speak and ask questions to the mining company and the various other organizations, voicing their concerns and opinions on the project to the review board.

Members of the Igloolik Hamlet Council at the community roundtables Wednesday morning.






Baffinland’s table listening to the presentations on Monday.






Igloolik resident George Qulaut voicing his concerns to the review board. His main issues were with the potential environmental impacts and loss of Inuit identity and traditional life that would result from the destruction of the area around the mine. Baffinland responded simply by stating that their research showed that the wildlife would not be significantly affected by the railway or shipping port, which would be in use for a minimum of 21 years.



The first day was reserved for the technical presentations, where the Government of Nunavut and other government departments such as Environment Canada, Transport Canada, Department of Ocean and Fisheries, Health Canada, Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and many others alongside Inuit organizations such as Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) who is in charge of implementing the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and Qikiqtani Inuit Organization (QIA) who represent the Inuit of the Baffin region and negotiates the land claim agreements of the Baffin area. Baffinland made their presentation first and then was asked questions by the other parties, and by the NIRB board. Each party made a presentation and after each one there was a question period. Zach also made a presentation. He has been working alongside an International Human Rights lawyer by the name of Lloyd Lipsett who will make a human rights impact assessment of Baffinland’s consultation process. Zach and Lloyd’s presentation revolved around the importance of International Human Rights when it comes to mining projects, and recommending that the NIRB board and Baffinland make sure to implement the right rules to respect them. Such issues include the right to free, prior and informed consent, equal access and development of long-term job security, continuous consultation with locals throughout the life of the mine, and economic transparency. The two other days were reserved for community roundtables, where anyone could ask questions to the mining company and other organizations. However the technical hearings went all the way to Tuesday afternoon, so the roundtables were six hours shorter than expected. They also ended early on Wednesday, much to the displeasure of the community as many were disappointed with the lack of time given for the public to voice their concerns to the board. The same frustration was experienced in Pond Inlet a few days later.

That’s all I am going to say about that subject. Part two will be about the shoot. I just felt it was important to talk about it since this blog is not only about the film but also about life in the North, and that this mining project will have an enormous impact on the life of the people here (for better or for worse is another issue). I have no doubt that mining in the Arctic will become the biggest issue Inuit in Nunavut will have to face over the next fifty years, and we are witnessing the beginning of it today. If you are interested in learning more about Zacharias’ new project you can visit http://www.isuma.tv/did where there is tons of information and audio and video related to the hearings.

Zacharias Kunuk and Lloyd Lipsett prepare for their presentation at the Baffinland technical hearings on Monday July 23rd.





A review of the third week of shooting / finalizing the website

Sorry for the long delay between posts! The past week has been quite a busy one for myself and the rest of the website team (our excellent web design team at espresso communications in Montreal, and our publicist Lucius Barre). We have been spending the week finalizing the official Uvanga website you see right now. This included collecting all the photos, and information about the cast, characters, script, directors, and setting up the Portrait of Children section of the website. Then we  had to go over the site and tune it, fixing minor glitches. The goal of this site is to follow the film throughout its entire process: from filming to the the post-production phase, through the festival circuit and, finally, the theatrical release. This means that the site will be evolving alongside the film, as both are part of a long process. Because of this ever-evolving nature we will be constantly polishing the website, adding new information, pictures, press, links, videos, etc. as the project advances. We hope to create offer a truly comprehensive website that offers plenty of information at every level of the production. Not only does this allow for people to follow the project as it takes form, which is an excellent way of promoting the film, but it also allows those who are interested to see how a film is made at every stage. In a world where small budget independent films cannot compete with the multi-million dollar advertising of big-budget commercial films, it is crucial to find alternative ways of promoting one’s project.

By giving people an insider’s look into Arnait’s unique world of movie-making in the Canadian Arctic, we hope to offer something that is fresh and new, something that stands apart, something you won’t see every day. This is what we have to offer: unique stories from a unique world.

Directors Madeline Ivalu and Marie-Hélène Cousineau


Last week the crew filmed many indoor and outdoor scenes around town. They finished the dreaded car scenes, which was a relief for everyone. The team also finished all the morning shots they had to do, so until the end of the shoot almost all the scenes will be late afternoon and evening shots. Which is excellent because in late July and early August is when the light is the most beautiful in Igloolik. The sun starts to briefly set at the end of July, and the fiery colours created are out of this world.

Filming at Ham Bay this past Monday. 1:30am. 



When the wind is down, the sea becomes so calm it looks like a giant sheet of glass. You look out to the horizon and there isn’t a single ripple on the water. Perfect stillness. It’s beautiful. When it’s bright and sunny the mountains and islands in the distance reflect on the water in a way that connects the reflection with the land, tying them together. It’s a hard thing to explain, I hope to get the chance to take a picture of the effect before I leave.

So what is left now are mostly outdoor and night scenes. Tonight the crew went out boating in order to shoot a seal hunting scene. The waters were very calm this evening so the conditions will be perfect. They will surely return very late. The past two weeks the weather has been terrific. It has been very warm and sunny, and all the ice has melted. People are going out boating for the first time of the year this past week, and the town is buzzing with excitement. Everyone is looking forward to the seal and walrus  hunting season. The Arctic Char also arrived, and people are going out and setting up nets around the island, returning with 40-plus fish in their boats. Hopefully the good weather continues, as there are many other boating and nature shots to be made.


Also, our professional photographer Philippe Ruel arrived at the end of last week. He is in town until the end of the month to take pictures of the set and of the Igloolik area for the website. Some of the pictures in this post were from him. Expect more to come, his photos are truly beautiful!

Pakak Innukshuk, who plays Ike. 


Marianne Farley, who plays Anna.


Susan Avingaq watches a scene on the monitor.


Madeline Ivalu and Mary Qulitalik in the background.



A quiet weekend in Igloolik

-July 16

The production was off this weekend, so there wasn’t any shooting happening. After a long and challenging week, it was good for everyone to get some rest. Well, not everyone gets to rest that much. There still needs to be people planning the shots and scheduling for the following week, keeping track of the weather forecasts to know what days will be primarily indoor or outdoor scenes. The directors of photography have to review with the director what kind of shot sequence they want to plan for some of the important upcoming scenes. And people have to set-up call times and organize transportation to the set for the various members of the production. But still, there is some downtime.

Director of photography Félix Lajeunesse and director Marie-Hélène Cousineau plan the shot sequence for an important scene to be shot Monday.







The weather was rainy and foggy all weekend so the town was pretty quiet. The painters Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson had just finished their project on the Kingulliit office, so it was really exciting to the beautiful finished work. People were really amazed to see the portrait of Pauloosie Qulitalik. We got a lot of positive compliments from the town.

The side of the Kingulliit office. All the wood used in the process was recycled wood from the town dump.







Patrick and Alexa used the boards from abandoned qamutiqs (Inuit sleds) and painted them with the help of kids participating in Uvanga’s Portrait of Children project. 







Patrick Thompson, Alexa Hatanaka and manager of the Igloolik community radio Mark Airut (who organized the project) pose in front of the portrait of Qulitalik. 







I also spent some time Friday night at the old Igloolik youth centre, where Virginie Cousineau is organizing the Portrait of Children camp. The camp runs from 7pm to 10pm, five days a week for three weeks . It has really been a hit with the kids. Some days more kids come than others, but there are always at least 10-12 kids there. On Friday there were closer to 25.

The project is truly amazing, creating workshops for kids ages ten to fifteen. We have ipods that run an application that asks kids questions about who they are, and what their lives are like, what they think of their community, and what they see for their future. The kids do all kinds of activities, and at the end everyone takes a turn alone in the « talking room, » where they answer the questions of the ipods. We are collecting all this data on the website in order to create a interactive exchange between kids from the North and kids down South in a place like Montreal. Virginie could definitely tell you more about this project, and if you are interested in what she is doing, she also has a blog on our site which you can follow!

Virginie Cousineau talking to the kids.








Mary Kunuk, who has worked for many years with kids of all ages at the elementary school and high school, is helping Virginie with the project, along with Curtis Taqqaugaq. 





The kids often do arts and crafts. Here some are drawing mandalas which will be used to decorate the restaurant in the Uvanga movie.