Last year, Canadian filmmaker Dominic Gagnon released a 74-minute film entitled Of The North. The film is a collage of the life of Inuit people using film clips the director says he took from public video sites such as Youtube.
Of the North has been screened at the Montreal International Documentary Festival, the Prizren festival of Kosovo, Leeds in Great Britain, the Film Festival of Rotterdam, the Distrital festival of Mexico City and it won an award at the prestigious Visions du Réel festival in Nyon, Switzerland.
The film has drawn tremendous criticism, because Gagnon has never been to the Northern territories and his film shows only selected segments of Inuit life, such as extreme weather, Ski-doos and hunting, and also shows drunk people, crashing vehicles and some sexually explicit scenes.
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, an Inuk and a documentary filmmaker, told the CBC Gagnon’s film left her shaking.
“Violent, wandering drunks that neglect their children and don’t care for the lives of animals: that’s the image I took away from the film. I think it’s kind of a cheap move to totally play up a negative stereotype of a marginalized people for your own artistic gain,” she said.
Gagnon used the music of Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq in his film; she told the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) she was “disgusted” by the festival’s decision to screen Of the North, a film she says is racist and used her music without permission.
Thirty-four of the videos are not made by Inuit, and not from the North, like the men fighting on the floor: this sequence was shot in Austin Texas, and they are not Inuit. The videos of the industrial off-shore drilling are in the Baltic sea. It is misleading, as the trailer suggests that Inuit are working on the oil drill, which is not true. Then he is mocking Inuit identity in a music clip, “don’t call me Eskimo.” The term “Eskimo” is derogative. It is a Cree word, they used it as an insult to the Inuit.
Adding what I said in a comment:
You need to read the full story, where it’s made clear that assholes like Gagnon could get away with this because the Inuit have next to no resources when it comes to communicating with the wider world. Efforts have started, and small headway has been made, but this is a poor community, with pretty much no one giving a damn about them. It’s even worse when you realize this piece of fakery won a fucking award – people else where in the world don’t know, and unless they make a serious effort to find out the truth, this bullshit will be taken for truth, screaming the old standard of Indians everywhere being drunken, savage brutes, and in the case of women, drunken whores not interested in any children they may have. This was a bone deep shock to Inuit people, who know the truth of their lives, and what is in this piece of fakery is not it. When the average American and the average Canadian doesn’t know jack shit about Indigenous peoples, what can be expected of those who live in Britain, Switzerland, and so on? It’s bad enough that people often romanticize the idea of Indians, in a completely unrealistic way, and here comes along someone who decided to make a profit through exploitation and theft.