The Williams Lake Film Club is excited to bring One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk, the latest film by legendary Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk to the Gibraltar Room next week.
Recently, at the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival last fall, the film received the cash award for Best Canadian Film. Many are familiar with Kunuk’s groundbreaking 2001 film Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, which won the Camera d’or at the Cannes Film Festival (for the best first feature film presented in one of the Cannes’ selections). It was the first Canadian dramatic feature film produced entirely in Inuktitut, and in 2015 a poll of filmmakers and critics from the Toronto International Film Festival named it the greatest Canadian film of all time.
In One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk, Kunuk focuses his attention on a pivotal day in Inuit-colonial history in 1961, at a time when the Canadian government had ordered Inuit people to leave the land and move into communities to attend English-language federal day schools, a policy that would change Inuit culture in Canada forever. It is the dramatization of a true story that was passed down to Kunuk through oral tradition, and the story is a very personal one to him, as he was born in Kapuivik, where the story takes place and was part of Noah Piugattuk’s band.
As Kunuk notes, “it’s an important part of our history and one I’ve been able to tell from my own personal perspective” (quoted in Frieze.com). Kunuk had the entire community involved in the production, with women stitching traditional outfits and men constructing props, while children and youth stayed busy training to run dog teams.
The film follows Noah Piugattuk (played brilliantly by Apayata Kotierk – Piugattuk’s real-life nephew) as he leads members of his community on a traditional seal hunt.
The drama begins when they are interrupted by a white man (played by Kim Bodnia from Killing Eve), a government emissary, who arrives on a mission to persuade Noah to move his nomadic Inuit band to a settlement in Igloolik.
Working as a translator is their friend Elavuarjuk, who introduces the white man simply as “the Boss.”
And though the Boss has arrived with food supplies and gifts, the gun he carries signifies the reality of his intentions and objectives. Translation, mistranslations and the meanings that get lost in translation are a pivotal element of the film and what seem like funny cultural misunderstandings become no laughing matter. Elavuarjuk tries to simplify the language, or at times may not completely understand the meanings of what the Boss is saying, though he stays dutiful to the Boss while explaining things to Noah.
As a director, Kunuk is known as a master of slow cinema, and this critical interchange, which is nearly an hour in length, plays out in real-time.
In taking this time, “the film flips the colonial narrative on its head by showing the exchange – full of mistranslations, jokes in Inuktitut that go untranslated and misunderstandings – through an Inuit lens” (TIFF Review by Kelly Boutsalis).
As reviewed by Pat Mullen, “buoyed by an endearing and compelling performance from Kotierk in the title role, One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk is a valuable portrait of resilience. While Kunuk’s previous films have drawn more on elements of myth or Hollywood tropes with slice-of-life realism bringing them to life, Piugattuk favours a stronger docu-drama approach. Kunuk’s verité style resurrects true figures and the stories that the real Piugattuk passed on to future generations. Shot on the same land where Piugattuk enjoyed his nomadic life until relocating to the settlement to gain the meager government cheques, the film honours his life and those of the Inuit community. One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk returns its hero to his land and reasserts the values that Noah articulated so eloquently and patiently, but fell on deaf ears” (imagineNATIVE).
Rated PG. In English and Inuktitut (with English subtitles).
One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk in on next Friday, March 6 at the Gibraltar Room in the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex. Doors open at 6:30 and the show begins at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors (65+). Tickets are purchasable at the door and are on sale now at the Open Book.