Producer to promote Iqaluit-shot Arctic drama at Cannes
Trained polar bear from balmy Vancouver found it cold in Timmins
Even though it’s not even finished yet, international movie buffs will soon get a taste of a new feature film set in the Arctic and Montreal-based producer Roger Frappier is hoping that small bite creates a big appetite for the whole movie.
Frappier, whose film career spans four decades, wrapped up filming on Two Lovers and a Bear earlier this month, after completing more than two months’ worth of shooting in Iqaluit and Ontario with award-winning director Kim Nguyen.
The film, set in Iqaluit and the surrounding landscape, still needs another six months of post-production work, but Nguyen and Frappier have put together a promotional segment for the Cannes Film Festival in France, May 13 to May 24, to create advance buzz and hopefully land some distribution deals.
“We’re showing a two-minute demo at the Cannes Film Festival, for the buyers,” Frappier said, just before departing for the festival this month.
France-based distributor TF1 International will be selling the movie in Cannes for markets outside of North America.
“We hope the movie will be shown in all parts of the world,” Frappier said.
A cast and crew of 100 assembled in Iqaluit at the end of March to shoot most of the movie, which features Canadian actor Tatiana Maslany, star of the TV series Orphan Black, and American Dane DeHaan, who has starred in a string of feature films, most recently The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The filmmakers are planning for a spring 2016 release.
Two Lovers and a Bear, as the title suggests, “is a big love story,” Frappier said.
“It’s a movie about redemption at the same time. It’s an adventure film. I think this movie is so full of life that I hope people will have a real experience watching it — and that it will give them something they’ve never had in a theatre,” he said.
“Some films, when we come out of them, we really had the impression that we have lived a real experience. And I hope this will happen to [viewers] also.”
Frappier, who was in Iqaluit with the cast and crew, described the experience of shooting in snow-bound Nunavut as “incredible.”
The producer has more than 50 films to his credit including award-winning features such as The Grand Seduction and Decline of the American Empire, and has worked on many others as a director, editor, actor and writer.
But of all his varied experiences, the Nunavut shoot ranks as his first project in cold, Arctic conditions.
The film’s financiers were concerned about a couple of things, he said.
First was the plan to shoot scenes with a polar bear, which the crew did on location in Timmins, Ont. Second was a month-long shoot in and around Iqaluit where blizzards were entirely possible.
“And these two things went marvelously,” he said. The polar bear “was such a great actor,” he laughed.
Only once did the bear give the cast and crew difficulty.
Because the trained animal’s home is actually in mild Vancouver, the actor-bear found Timmins a bit cold in mid-March.
“In fact it was, in a way, colder than in Iqaluit, because it was damp,” Frappier said. “It was not dry. And the only person who was colder than us was the bear. After every take, he wanted to go back to his trailer, because he was cold.”
After Timmins, the film crew was well prepared to shoot in Iqaluit’s early-spring Arctic conditions which the producer expected would be “twice as difficult” as a regular film shoot in the South.
In the end, “because it was so well-organized, it was twice as easy as some other movies,” he said.
He credited Iqaluit-based co-producer Ellen Hamilton and unit manager Francis Choquette, who “were able to really build a bridge between us and the local community.”
Hamilton said Frappier’s world-class production crew offered a rare opportunity for Iqaluit-based filmmakers and actors to demonstrate — and also improve — their field skills and abilities.
Among them were Shawn Inuksuk, who worked with the crew as a camera assistant during shoots in Iqaluit and Ottawa.
The 29-year-old filmmaker said Frappier’s crew, more than any other he has worked with, seemed comfortable working in isolated, cold conditions and in partnership with indigenous communities.
“They had a certain respect for the local culture,” Inuksuk said. “They weren’t using a lot of the stereotypes that we’re used to seeing [about the Arctic] in international cinema.”
The young filmmaker’s work with the crew ended when shooting wrapped up near Ottawa, May 2 at the Diefenbunker Museum.
Scenes shot in Iqaluit, particularly in Apex, “look amazing,” he said, and now he can’t wait to see the final product.
Apex and other parts of Iqaluit doubled as unnamed Arctic communities in the film. The story centres around Lucy, a young Inuk woman portrayed by Maslany, and Roman, played by DeHaan.
“I think there was a lot of careful research done, to portray these characters as accurately as possible with the northern lifestyle,” Inuksuk said.
“I think some of it is going to be quite shocking, but so are a lot of the modern realities of living in the North.
“A lot of times, when people go to see films and they see portrayals of the North, it’s often this very romanticized version of it, which is not necessarily accurate, and kind of relies on these old stereotypes that are archaic and really outdated,” he said.
Two Lovers and a Bear, Inuksuk said, will show “a modern portrayal of the North — along with the amazing beauty it has to offer, as well as some of the more ugly social aspects.”
Frappier said the $8.7 million production will be ready for release in the spring of 2016.