When director Nila Innuksuk decided her film Slash/Back was going to be about, she knew she would have to do some things differently. And in a way, shaking things up was the whole point.
The film, which premiered on Friday, follows a group of teenage and preteen girls in Nunavut who struggle with the challenges of growing up, reconcile their cultural identity with teenage pressures to fit in – and single-handedly fight off an alien invasion.
“I grew up obsessed with horror films,” Innuksuk said, explaining why she chose to make a film that is ultimately about horror identity.
“I always dressed up my cousins as ghosts and covered them in blood. And it made sense for me to think that way when it came to making my first feature film.”
The result is a unique blend of modern science fiction and traditional Inuit myths, comedy and horror, created by Innuksuk by borrowing from her past growing up in Nunavut.
But do Slash/Back turned out the way she envisioned it, she had to change how actors are recruited, how crews are placed, and prove to investors that a horror film can work in the 24-hour arctic sunlight—by demonstrating what local filmmakers can do. potential and tell your stories.
WATCH | Slash/Back trailer:
“It was absolutely crazy”
Slash/Back Shot entirely in the Baffin Island village of Pangnirtung about 300 km from Iqaluit, where there are no roads leading in or out, this is the first feature film made there.
To attract investors, Innuksuk first started with a virtual reality proof-of-concept short film showing the horror in this landscape, with the usual everyday realities of Inuit teenagers talking about boys, browsing Instagram and daydreaming about a summer vacation in Winnipeg.
Since there were no casting agents in the area, Innuksuk instead organized a series of acting workshops to simultaneously train about 20 girls, most of whom had never acted before, in the intricacies of the craft, to figure out which girls are right for whom. part and refine those parts to really fit the habits and personalities of Generation Z of Nunavut.
And on top of that, the production sent nearly 60 beds and mattresses to two schools in the area, and the entire crew stayed there throughout the shoot. Innuksuk says they chose to do so because, due to the housing crisis in Nunavut, it would have been impossible for them to carve out and protect Pangnirtung without ultimately harming residents by doing so in some other way.
“It was completely crazy – a crazy way to make a movie. But it was the only way that it would be possible to provide this space and ask everyone in the community to help and help us make it happen.”
Despite what she’s had to go through, Innuksuk is far from the only filmmaker to approach filmmaking with this level of access and support. For years, Indigenous filmmakers have combined filmmaking with behind-the-scenes work to support creators and Indigenous communities that have historically been off limits to the film industry.
And now that work is starting to bring real results, Innuksuk said.
Training works, director says
Movies similar to Dani Goulet night raidersTracey Dear beans and Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Maya Tailfeathers. The body remembers when the world split Indigenous filmmakers and Indigenous actors have burst onto the scene over the past few years as some of the best films made in the country. (Hepburn is not native, although the co-director and star of Tailfeathers is Blackfoot and Sami)
At the same time, as with Innuksuk, these films were often produced using a range of embedded programs to support a new generation of talent and increase the credibility and access of other indigenous creators.
In the case of both night raiders as well as The body remembers when the world splitwhich materialized in the form of initial mentorship programs to help young indigenous filmmakers get into the film industry. Per beanswhich is based on Deer’s own traumatic experience during the 1990 Okina Crisis, Deer had an offstage acting coach who helped the film’s child stars learn to deal with the emotionally charged aspects of the script.
Many of these kids had never played before, and Deere explained this in an interview with the magazine at the time. news and cultural publication Cult MTL that she also had to go through an acting workshop instead of going through the normal casting process as “there aren’t a ton of indigenous kids in that traditional system that have already been discovered.”
Writer, director and actor Jennifer Podemsky explained that the build-up of resources is one of the reasons we are now seeing a wave of Indigenous-led films.
Her first production was also the first Indigenous drama series in North America – and came about solely through an initiative to train young Indigenous artists.
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In 2002, Podemsky and Laura J. Milliken brought a script and crew to Regina and worked with 40 indigenous young people to create what would eventually become the 2003 film. Flat moccasins The series ran for three seasons.
“I know and have seen — and anyone who remembers or was involved in this project knows — that learning works and learning builds capacity,” Podemsky said.
“It may not be for everyone, but we need our own communities to engage with us as content creators to help build that potential and also expose young people to these careers in the film industry.”
Two decades later, Podemsky is working on a new show. Small bird, about an Indigenous woman searching for her biological family after being taken from them during the Sixties sensation. This production, like many others, also has a training program for both beginner and intermediate Indigenous filmmakers.
“Unlimited Barriers” Remain
While providing these opportunities and resources is necessary to overcome the barriers faced by indigenous authors, she said, there is still an “unlimited range of barriers” within the industry itself.
According to Podemsky, the biggest hurdle is “the ability of indigenous peoples to act as corporations.” Despite proven track record of producing Indigenous products, it is often difficult to secure investment, while Podemsky said broadcasters often ask that Indigenous creators “have non-Indigenous partners so… they can be more confident in that they will get what they need.” looking for.”
“It makes me very sad to see that we are still almost invisible in terms of what kind of work we can do, what money we can get, and what kind of audience we can reach. ,” she said. “Because we don’t have the platforms we need to get our stories out to a wider audience.”
Until that changes, Podemsky said, Indigenous creators are forced to rely largely on self-study opportunities to nurture young talent.
But even despite this, the positive effect of such training is undeniable. Harlan Blaine Kitweihat, 24, is a young player in the Canadian entertainment industry. He became an actor just a few years ago after being spotted working at a country club by a scout and invited him to an audition.
After landing his first role in a drama series Tribalhe later got a role in Letterkenny spin off Shorseyin which he plays Sanguineth, a comic contrast to the protagonist and hockey player Shorsey.
Kitweihat says that when he was growing up in Makwa Sahgayekhkan, a Cree indigenous nation in Saskatchewan, acting or acting classes were not opportunities open to him or any of his friends, which meant he didn’t even think about a career in film or television for yourself.
Now seeing where his career has led, one of his ultimate goals is to one day start an arts program in his reserve—to champion art as a viable career for young indigenous kids so they can break into the industry just like him. did.
“I really hope there will be more progress here,” Kitwahat said. “And not only here, but as in all small towns, villages and other reserves.”