Aarigaa: Meet the NWT’s newest film festival

“Inuvik is overdue for a film festival, and why wait any longer?”

This statement was written in the first Facebook post made by organizers of Inuvik’s newly-minted Aarigaa Film Festival on their official page.

Set to take place on July 20 & 21, the inaugural edition of the NWT town’s first very-own film fest (a production of Inuvialuit Communications Society) has been a long time coming, said Festival Director, ICS manager and local filmmaker Dez Loreen.

“The festival was started because our community has been lacking a film presence. We have a handful of local people from the region who are making films and shorts, but we never had a stage to showcase them,” he said.

Included in this year’s lineup are films from Inuvik-based filmmakers Peter Clarkson, Jeff Jones, Jerri Thrasher, Tamara Voudrach, Loreen himself and his daughter, Paige Loreen.

Additonally, feature film The Sun at Midnight, shot above the arctic circle near Fort MacPherson, will be presented. As will the feature documentary When They Awake!, which features scenes filmed in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk with local musician and storyteller Leanne Goose. Another doc, Tundra Cowboy, follows Henrik Seva, a Sami-born man who manages Canada’s only free-range reindeer herd in the region.

Zacharias Kunuk’s film Maliglutit (Searchers) will be screened at the inaugural Aarigaa Film Festival in Inuvik this summer. Kunuk is an Inuk filmmaker from Nunavut whose first feature film won the prestigious Camera D’or at Cannes in 2001.

Alongside NWT films, the festival is also shining a spotlight on Inuit films from elsewhere in Canada. Angry Inuk, a seal hunt documentary by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Maliglutit (Searchers), an Inuktitut re-interpretation of a classic John Wayne western by Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) will be shown.

Loreen said he wanted to give the people of Inuvik the chance to see the work of Inuit filmmakers in the Eastern Arctic.

“There is such a huge presence in Nunavut and Nunavik film,” he said. “I wanted to share that with everyone here in Inuvik, to hopefully encourage more local films.”

“It’s my goal to close the gap in the northern film community from east to west.”Dez Loreen, festival director

Loreen said he’s hoping the film festival will help establish new connections between the local film scene and what’s going on elsewhere in the North.

“It’s my goal to close the gap in the northern film community from east to west. I’d love to work with more filmmakers from across the circumpolar world for next year’s festival and really grow our event in town,” he said.

Though this year’s festival is only two days long, Loreen hopes it will set the stage for a much larger event in the future.

“I’d like to use this first year as an example or taste of what could happen with sponsors to bring in guest speakers, filmmakers and put on a week long event with sessions and screenings across different venues in town,” he said. “But everything big starts small. We hope to see the community come out this summer for what is shaping to be a killer festival.”

For more information about the Aarigaa Film Festival, or to see the full lineup of films, visit www.facebook.com/aarigaafestival.

Scott Clouthier is a filmmaker, editor and colourist based in Hay River, NWT. He currently serves as Vice President of the NWTPMA