Winter 2014 Documentary series
Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 7:00PM
Directed by John Walker
Screenplay by John Walker
Rated NR ·
Inuktitut and English with English subtitles
“The myth of Canada as a northern nation is embedded within us. From childhood we sing the romantic lines of the national anthem ‘With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North, Strong and Free!’ And yet the North remains a mystery to most of us.” (John Walker)
Set in the dramatic and alluring landscape of the north, this latest documentary by Haligonian John Walker (Passage, Strand, Under the Dark Cloth) tells the remarkable story that began in1968 with a radical Inuit movement that changed the political landscape of Canada forever. It led to the largest land claim in western civilization, orchestrated by young visionary Inuit with a dream—the governance of their territory—the creation of Nunavut officialy on April 1, 1999. The story reveals the dark side of Canada’s attempt at sovereignty in the north and finds hope and inspiration from determined people who changed the rules of the game.
In 1968, a sixteen-year-old John Walker, 35mm camera in hand, boards a ship in Montréal on its way to Resolute Bay in the High Arctic. It has been his childhood dream to visit the north—his imagination inspired by films and “Eskimo” art. What he does not realize is that the global radicalism of the 1960s was also the beginning of a re-imagining of the Arctic by a group of visionary “Eskimos.” They began their political movement by challenging the use of the word Eskimo.
We join Oo Aqpik, a modern Inuk, and John Walker on a ship heading to Resolute Bay where Inuit were shipped by the Canadian government in the 1950s to act as human flagpoles for Canadian sovereignty. We are introduced to some of the visionary “Defenders” of Inuit culture who opposed the Canadian government’s imperialist plans. The film documents the monumental achievements of determined people to have a say in their future. It is a story of a culture that defines a nation.
Arctic Defenders won the best Atlantic feature Award at this year’s Atlantic Film Festival.
“Although the film looks at a portion of history that Canadians know little about, Arctic Defenders never feels like it is preaching to the audience. One of the film’s greatest strengths is that it educates just as much as it incites a call to action. Walker provides a good sense of the humans caught in the middle of all of the political posturing. He shows that human life, and the culture which comes out of it, is far more important than grand scale land disputes. Walker’s film is a scathing look at a section of Canadian history that cannot easily be swept under the rug. Arctic Defenders is a wake-up call not only to a shameful time in Canadian history, but also an honest look at the people whose lives were impacted as a result.” (Courtney Small, Cinema Axis)
“Walker tells the story with passion, a deep personal interest and indignation.” (Volkmar Richter, Vancouver Observer)