From the Editor: A Great Man Has Passed
Baker Lake MLA Speaks Out in Support of Nunavut's Inuit Dogs
Proposed New Dog By-law, a Threat to Iqaluit Dog Team Owners?
Published Research Has Implications for the Aboriginal Inuit Sled Dog!
The Chinook Project’s July 2013 Visit to Labrador
NFB Increases Internet Accessibility to its Film Library
Movie Review: Vanishing Point
Problems Accessing/Viewing Pages
IMHO: The Back Story of the Thank You DVD
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Photo: Julia Szucs
A documentary of the National Film Board of Canada
reviewed by Sue Hamilton
“Have you ever wanted to travel to new lands?
Have you ever wanted to meet new people?”
Long time readers of The Fan Hitch may recall Renee Wissink’s four part “Qitdlarssuaq Chronicles” in which he tells of his expedition to retrace the footsteps of Qitdlarssuaq. More recently, you read Kenn Harper’s “Qillarsuaq” (a spelling variant of Qitdlarssuaq), an even more detailed history of this powerful angakkuq’s (shaman’s) wanderings from Canada’s southern Baffin, begun in the 1830s, to his arrival in northwest Greenland around 1860.
In Vanishing Point, viewers will now enjoy the personal perspective of this historical event as told by Qitlarssuaq’s great-great-great-niece. Elder Navarana K’avigak’ Sorensen identifies herself as a Polar Eskimo, an Inughuit or Greenlander, born in Uummannaq but now living in Qaanaaq, in the northern region of the island.
By the time Qitdlarssuaq, believed to born on southeastern Baffin Island in the region of present day Qikiqtarjuaq, made contact with the first Inughuit, they were a population in severe decline, perhaps as few as about a hundred desperate people. For undiscovered reasons the use of boats – qajaq (kayak) and umiaq – and implements (including the bow and arrow) for hunting caribou and birds and catching fish had been lost to their culture. The arrival around 1860 of Qitdlarssuaq and his band brought a revival of these people and to their lost implements of survival, as well as new blood, diversity for their gene pool.
Six years later, the now aged Qitdlarssuaq desired to return to home and, with a small group of followers, departed. But they never reached Canada. The old angakkuq died. Starvation took most of the others. The five sole survivors were able to return to the foot of Greenland’s Uummannaq Mountain. One of those five was Navarana’s great-great grandmother.
The thought-provoking dialogue is in Inuktitut with English subtitles, but there are plenty of breaks in the narration to focus on magnificent scenery and activity. On a hunting trip in Greenland we see entire families, from tots to parents, sitting on rocky hillsides using nets on long poles to snare dovekies (little auks) flying overhead in great clouds, then encasing their whole carcasses by the hundreds inside a seal skin “balloon” where they ferment for months, eventually transformed into the delicacy knows as “kiviak”. Also in Greenland there is considerable footage of dogs working in harness, being fed and at rest as well as archival photos of the dogs.
Like her ancestor Qitdlarssuaq, Navarana’s strong urge to travel to new lands and meet new people takes her to Qikiqtarjuaq to meet members of her great family tree thanks to the late shaman and his followers. She observes in the community, “Just like at home, more and more life runs on gasoline and sugar.” Preparing for a hunting expedition, Navarana visits the community’s Northern Store supermarket where we see her standing in front of shelves bearing boxes of MilkboneTM dog biscuits. “They have different dogs here. Some are real dogs – like the ones people use in the North. But a lot of them are little dogs – pets.” On this hunting expedition we see berry picking, net fishing, narwhale hunting from large powerboats and Navarana in the camp tent pointing out common ancestors on a print out of her family tree.
A dog team pulls an Inughuit family across the vast sea ice of Greenland.
But with the terrain melting beneath them, the dogs break through the surface,
plunging into frigid polar waters. Photo: Julia Szucs; Courtesy NFB
Navarana finds much to contrast between life in Qaanaaq and Qikiqtarjuaq, yet much that is similar as well. “Parents hope for their children to get a good education and jobs so they don’t have to struggle... but understand that education [also] means being together out on the land.”
Throughout Vanishing Point Qitdlarssuaq’s epoch journey is never far from Navarana’s thoughts and is at the heart and soul of her past, present and her reflections of what the future may hold for her culture. It is a story of a continuing struggle for the existence of a traditional way of life versus the need for adaptation to survive in a modern world.
“I have seen so many changes in my life. We are always changing our ways. But I have to wonder...by choosing new ways what do we gain? And by choosing new ways what do we leave in the past forever?”
Go to the Vanishing Point home page where you can see trailers. Starting on October 22, 2013 U.S. and Canadian users will be able to either order a download or a DVD from that page. The page will be updated in advance of the official release date with the info. Prices to download/own: $9.95 SD and $14.95 HD U.S./Cdn. Digital rental is $2.95 U.S./Cdn. Vanishing Point will also be available from iTunes in the U.S. and Canada – prices TBC but will be comparable to the NFB. DVD list price is $34.95 U.S./Cdn with a special introductory price of $24.95 U.S./Cdn. International customers please contact NFB directly for pricing/ordering. Eighty-two minutes long, Vanishing Point is a worthy edition to your collection.