Tales from the Arctic Circle

These 4 short essay films, commissioned by Channel 4 television, follow a week at the Toonik Tyme festival in Iqaluit, the capital of the Inuit territories. Each film presents a study of a changing culture that challenges western perceptions of the North. Locals compete in games and tests of skill: igloo building, ice sculpture, snowmobile racing and a round of golf on a fairway carved from the sea ice. It’s all so enchanting and magical, but behind these images are stories of homelessness, melting ice, colonialism and isolation.

Episode 1 – Monday: Building Snowhouses
In Iqaluit a town 100 miles from the Arctic Circle the Inuit are building igloos for the Toonik Tyme festival. This is a booming capital city of six thousand people but there is a serious housing crisis. When temperatures drop down to minus 70 in the winter some families can be found living in sheds, but no one lives in igloos anymore.

Episode 2 – Tuesday: Flying Under the Ice
Today at the Inuit festival of Toonik Tyme it’s the ice sculpture competition. Way up here in the Arctic a group of local men are sculpting mythical creatures from blocks of frozen sea. Jacoposee is carving the mermaid Sedna… Inuit shaman work hard to keep her happy so the sea will freeze each year… it’s not so hard to notice the climate is changing up here when hunters are falling through the thinning ice and people are seeing robins and mosquitoes for the first time.

Episode 3 – Wednesday: Naming the Arctic Hare
It’s minus 30 degrees and Paul Okalik the first ever Inuit politician is teeing off on a golf course carved out of the frozen sea ice. Decades ago when the missionaries first came to the Arctic, they took away the Inuits’ names and gave them numbers to wear on tags around their necks. Now Okalik is leading Inuit to reclaim their traditional names… but like many politicians he still has time for a round of golf.

Episode 4 – Thursday: The Road to Nowhere
At the Toonik Tyme festival daredevil riders are racing snowmobiles up a hill. There are 2,000 cars in this remote and isolated Arctic settlement, but not a single road leads out of town. In the last 70 years Inuit lives have shifted away from a nomadic existence of living on the land and hunting with dog teams. Now that they live in settlements, what does the future hold for these people?…

Screenings & Comment

Comment

‘Roz Mortimer and Wonderdog Productions have provided us with a fascinating yet sobering alternative to the standard Yuletide fare…this is [Inuit] life as it’s really lived’
Victor Lewis-Smith, Evening Standard

Broadcast

TX Channel 4 Television December 2005
Repeats: January 2006 & November 2006, January 2007

Screenings

European Media Art Fair (EMAF), Germany. 05/06
Shadow Festival,Amsterdam. 11/07
Dawson City International Short Film Festival. Yukon, Canada. 03/08

 

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