A few years ago, I had the opportunity to film in Nunavik, the far northern region of Quebec, among the Inuit people. During the Winter Festival in Puvirnituq, a little community not far from Hudson Bay, I was dispatched there to make a documentary for a Local Inuit Television. I spent two weeks filming the festival, which included everything from sports competitions to ice sculpting to eating traditional food, as well as conducting interviews with local elders to learn about their traditions and the impact of the environment on their daily lives. However, the most valuable aspect of the experience was learning about the true nature of the Inui people.
Wisdom of the Elders
During one of the competitions, “first to lay down their fishing net beneath the ice,” I had a profound and disturbing chat with one of the elders. From the perspective of the modern world, where food and basic necessities are readily available, I considered their technique to install a net beneath the ice to be both inventive and practical. So I film as much as I can, from various angles, broad shots, closeups, inserts, action shots, and so on. I was creating my story shot by shot until I decided to stop and ask the Elder why they did it and why they did it that way. The answer was unexpected, “because we were hungry,” which hit me like a ton of bricks. We’re in a snow desert, with nothing to eat, hungry people, and plenty of fish just a couple of meters down… at this moment my perspective changed radically, what I took for granted took on an entirely new meaning, much of what they do is to ensure their survival in those harsh environments, you know they have no choice but to adapt to the situation they face every day to survive in this part of the world.
Humans have constantly been innovating to be better adapted to their surroundings over time; it is a process that occurs continuously throughout human history, so talking with the elders there taught me something very important about how our forefathers adapted to the environment and how they innovate and adapt to the environment that surrounds them even today in order to survive and hopefully thrive.
During the Winter Festival, I met a lot of very interesting people from Canada and overseas, from athletes to artists, all extremely enthusiastic about what they do and all working together to make this the best festival possible, not just for themselves but for everyone who participates and attends this event.
The Inuit have a strong sense of community; children are raised not only by their parents, but by the entire community. They learn to respect the elders from an early age, which helps to reinforce their links to the community, but it may also be a problem, particularly for the younger generation, who have easy access to the Internet and do not rely only on the elders for direction.
When the interpreter asks the question or not!
During the festival, I was accompanied but an Inuit interpreter and guide to help me making the interviews, and one thing that let me understand the generation gap, was when I asked my interpreter, who was around 45 years old, to ask questions to a 20 years old Inuit signer, during other interviews with elderly people, my guide didn’t have any problem asking questions and seemed very interested in the knowledge received from an older person during the interviews, but asking questions and learning from a 20-year-old, was not something interesting, what can my guide could learn from him, so at the moment, I feel the discomfort of my guide and the difficulty for him to ask a question to someone younger than him and having something to learn from the singer. I believe these generation gaps are causing problems in the nordic community where young people are adapting to new technologies faster than the older ones which can disrupt old traditions that have existed for thousands of years.
In my field of work, I interviewed a lot of elders from the Inuit community and asked them about how they adapted to the changing environment around them and how did they deal with the challenges they have faced over the years?
As a result of my interviews, I now understand that these communities still adhere to their ancient customs while at the same time looking for ways to adapt to modern society. Despite this, they continue to uphold the values and customs that they inherited from their forebears and work to instill these beliefs in the next generation.
As part of the festivities, there were a lot of people signing things, musicians playing traditional music and dancing, traditional delicacies, and also the construction of a traditional dwelling, an igloo. I was there to film and document the event, but I also had the opportunity to take part in some of the activities that were going on. To tell you the truth, that helped me a lot to do a better job, to understand some of the traditional activities, and most of all to learn about the Inuit and their traditions. It was a truly wonderful experience, and I have to say that it was very beneficial.