Feel the Inukness on Iqaluit filmmaker’s short film
“It’s about being ourselves and embracing who we are"
If you are one of more than 70,000 Youtube viewers who have seen Becky Qilavvaq’s latest short film, then you’re likely feeling the “Inukness.”
The Iqaluit-based youth programmer doesn’t consider herself a filmmaker – she’s never had formal training and shoots her films “spontaneously” on a handheld video camera, mostly for the entertainment of family and friends.
But Qilavvaq’s newest film called Feel the Inukness has gone viral — in Nunavut terms — for its three-minute clip that follows friend and actor Anguti Johnston step dance around Iqaluit.
The film starts off with Johnston flipping though songs on his iPod — first hip hop, then something electronic. When he finally lands on a traditional Celtic jig, he kicks up his heels and dances through town with footwork familiar to any Inuit community celebration.
The clip is guaranteed to bring laughter to viewers north and south, but Qilavvaq said it’s much deeper than that.
“It’s about being ourselves and embracing who we are,” she said.
When the clip screened alongside other Nunavut-produced short films at Iqaluit’s Astro Theatre March 8, the full house and the enthusiastic applause caught Qilavvaq off guard, but only for a moment.
“I was looking around at the audience, at the kids and the young people, and I realized that I wanted them to have what I didn’t growing up,” she said. “And that’s local role models working with multimedia, making modern representations of Inuit culture.”
The film screening also featured another one of Qilavvaq’s short films, called To That Place, filmed last fall. The short film, which can also be watched on YouTube, features Johnston again, this time sporting a traditional seal skin outfit and walking in slow motion through a bustling, fast-moving Iqaluit.
To That Place feels much heavier — the film features the audio of a speech by Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier talking about Inuit children’s struggles in a modern society and high suicide rates.
But while one film is more sentimental, both creations convey the same message, Qilavvaq says.
“The message is essentially about not giving into the pressure to conform,” she said. “It’s difficult for a lot of Inuit with all the change we’ve lived in recent decades.”
Qilavvaq points to her modern lifestyle, contrasted to that of her grandmother, who had a much more traditional upbringing than her own.
‘We’re worlds apart, although we’re only separated by a generation,” she said.
Qilavvaq isn’t exploring new territory when she considers that gap, but she’s doing with a medium that is still relatively new among Inuit artists.
Her films, which spread through social media like Facebook, appeal to Inuit young and old.
To outsiders, her films are a window into a faraway culture that is often epitomized by snow and hunting.
Now Qilavvaq is being approached to work on more film projects, what she considers an opportunity to learn from others in the industry.
“A whole new world has opened up to me,” she said.
Qilavvaq also just picked up Ajjitt Media’s emerging filmmaker award at an industry event in Iqaluit — not bad for someone with only a handheld video camera to her name.