Cross-cultural love, family, centre of new short doc set in Nunavik
My Irnik, a Kuujjuaq story, to première in Montreal May 1
SPECIAL TO NUNATSIAQ NEWS
MONTREAL—It was supposed to be a film about dogsledding but that quickly changed.
When Matthew Hood and François Lebeau first flew up to Kuujjuaq for a film shoot in April 2016, the idea was to focus on the adventures of Hood’s childhood friend Conor Goddard, while he worked as a guide and trainer in outdoor survival skills for an Ontario-based outfitting company called Black Feather.
But they soon concluded that the real story lay not in the dogsledding, but in Goddard’s little family.
“When we got there we realized—it is interesting. but it is not some wild adventure,” Hood says. “It is pretty controlled. It is pretty calm. The idea is to go out and to have a smooth ride. So it is not like some epic adventure every time.”
But they started to see the relationship Goddard had with his Inuk wife Tracy Partridge, and his young son Callum—all the activities and adventures they would do.
“And then we realized that that was the movie,” Hood says.
The result, Hood and Lebeau’s 15-minute short My Irnik (My Son in Inuktitut), will première at the Rialto Theater in Montreal May 1.
The 14-foot dog sled featured in the film will be on display at the Montreal première.
Going on a little adventure and exploring can be a big deal for kids when they are three or four years old, Hood says.
“Sometimes they’ll go out and do 40 kilometres or maybe 50 kilometres with the dogs,” Hood says. “Or sometimes it is just something at home, like opening up a book and talking to him, learning about new parts of the world, or Inuit culture, the animals and all that. That is kind of the heart of the movie. Little bits of adventure.”
My Irnik is a small, micro-story, Hood says, of something positive from the North.
“Because often what comes from the North is overly dramatized, its very kind of colonialized, like that is the view—it’s like the white person looking down on Inuit and First Nations,” Hood says. “So I think not only is this a nice story but it is a story that connects the South and the North.”
It’s an example of someone who moved north, fell in love and found his new home—someone who started a family in another place and enjoys his life.
“I hope people take something positive from that,” Hood says.
The project has been a year and a half in the making. But in those 18 months, there were only two northern visits and 17 days of shooting.
Hood and Lebeau raised $6,000 US for the film on the Kickstarter fundraising site and received small donations from Makivik Corp. and Black Feather. First Air also subsidized some of their flights while they were working on the film.
“The rest we financed out of pocket,” Hood says.
This is the first film that he has fully produced from beginning to end, though he has worked on other wildlife and nature films as a camera operator or editor.
Hood said the best part of working on the film was really just filming.
“Being out in the cold, having frozen fingers and you know going out with the dogs and putting in all that work and coming back and looking at the footage,” Hood said. “With Conor and Callum and Tracy and Francois and just seeing all these amazing little moments we’d captured.”
One of his favourite scenes: a shot of Conor wearing his Montreal Canadiens baseball hat and stretching his seal skin kamiks on a wood rack. Seeing that juxtaposition of North and South was perfect, Hood said.
“Conor is not trying to, like, ditch the South, and all of a sudden just wear fur parkas,” Hood said. “He still wears Nikes and he still skateboards and he still listens to hiphop music but he also loves traditional music and he loves eating country food and he wears sealskin boots that Tracy made for him.”
Hood said he hopes My Irnik will be viewed as an example of the kinds of bridges that can be built between north and south.
“Obviously, geographically, we are very far apart and most Canadians live close to the border. And then the North is a huge distance away so obviously you’re not going to interact with [each other] day to day,” Hood says.
“But I don’t think there needs to be this massive divide and polarization.”
Montreal screenings for My Irnik are scheduled at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., May 1 at the Rialto Theatre, 5723 Park Ave. The film will have French subtitles.