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Movie Review: The Stories of Tuktu: Tuktu and His Eskimo Dogs
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Aware that a millennias-old lifestyle was soon to end, anthropologists, ethnographers and a few photographer/filmmakers (some of whom had lived and travelled with nomadic Inuit) recorded this disappearing way of life of Netsilingmiut and Inuit of other arctic Canadian regions. Much of the filming was done in conjunction with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), who has an impressive anthology of archival documentary films. One of the NFB’s collections is called In Celebration of Nunavut – Stories of Tuktu, thirteen short films (about fourteen minutes each), created in 1967 and 1968 about a fictional Netsilik Elder, Tuktu, who narrates his childhood recollections of living a nomadic lifestyle. The titles in the series are: Tuktu and the magic bow, Tuktu and the magic spear, Tuktu and the snow palace, Tuktu and the big seal, Tuktu and the indoor games, Tuktu and the big kayak, Tuktu and the trials of strength, Tuktu and his Eskimo dogs, Tuktu and the clever hands, Tuktu and his nice new clothes, Tuktu and the caribou hunt, Tuktu and the ten thousand fishes, Tuktu and his animal friends. A portion of this collection has been made part of NFB’s much celebrated Unikkausivut, Sharing our Stories.
Although some of the action may have been performed for the camera, what you see is truly authentic and represents the last vestiges of a soon-to-disappear way of life. These scenes carry Tuktu and his Eskimo Dogs and that is important to keep in mind because the dialog lacks authenticity (apparently not created from any Inuktitut translation, or at least not a very good one) and is clearly non-Inuit in origin nor is the narrator or the way he speaks. The same can to be said for the lack of relevance of the musical accompaniment. In creating the Unikkausivut series, NFB was aware that many of their films were originally made by and bore the unmistakable characteristics of a non-indigenous culture. In a September 2011 The Fan Hitch interview, Assistant Commissioner of the National Film Board of Canada, Claude Joli-Coeur, explained, “That is a part of the richness of our collection, to see the evolution of how Inuit culture was represented. We have films that were originally made by white people, with a European approach. And later, we see white people who have transformed themselves through the cause of the Inuit, becoming almost Inuit themselves. We are now making films with Inuit creators. And we have selected the films to give you that historical perspective.” So it is important to wade past much of what is audibly described and focus on the visual evidence.