An­gry Inuk film re­view

An­gry­inuk chal­lenges main­stream anti-seal rhetoric

The McGill Daily - - News - An­nie Ru­bin Cul­ture Writer

Con­tent warn­ing: men­tion of sui­cide

In the vast snowy land­scape of Iqaluit, the cap­i­tal city of Nu­navut, Alethea Ar­naquq-baril nar­rates a true-to-life im­age of the cul­tural prac­tice of seal hunt­ing within Inuit com­mu­ni­ties. Study­ing a photo of two joy­ful tod­dlers with bright red mouths rais­ing blood-stained bloody fin­gers, she chuck­les at the thought that this play­ful mo­ment may look bizarre to an out­sider.

In pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion, the Inuit com­mu­nity of Nu­navut is of­ten en­vi­sioned liv­ing in igloos and ide­al­ized as a con­tained, self-suf­fi­cient group that is un­touched by the pas­sage of time. Ar­naquq-baril re­futes such stereo­types in the doc­u­men­tary, An­gry Inuk, screened at Cin­ema du Parc last month. The film shows how Inuit peo­ples have not only been subject to evolv­ing thresh­olds for sur­vival within the grow­ing cap­i­tal­ist econ­omy, but are also ex­cluded from Euro­cen­tric no­tions of moder­nity. Il­lu­mi­nat­ing the colo­nial con­text in Canada and ad­dressed to a global au­di­ence, Ar­naquq-baril speaks to the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing liv­ing and work­ing con­di­tions of her In­dige­nous com­mu­nity as a re­sult of en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists’ mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of seal hunt­ing.

Be­yond its value as a food source to Inuit peo­ples, seal hunt­ing sus­tains Nu­navut’s eco­nomic struc­ture through an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional cy­cle. Inuit peo­ples use the en­tirety of the an­i­mal: the com­mu­nity is fed, and mit­tens, coats, and shawls are pro­duced. The seal skins are also sold to the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment. The money made is then used to buy gas as a means to con­tinue hunt­ing in or­der to feed their fam­ily. To com­plete the cy­cle, the skills of seal hunt­ing are passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.

Ar­naquq-baril il­lus­trates the fight and the frus­tra­tion she faces on be­half of her com­mu­nity when main­stream an­i­mal rights ac­tivism de­clines her ac­cess to the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion on seal hunt­ing. The suc­cess of this ac­tivism peaked in the seven­ties when the United Na­tions ap­proved a ban on seal prod­ucts in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.

In re­sponse, the mak­ers of An­gry Inuk trav­elled across the world to lobby the U.N. to abol­ish it. The doc­u­men­tary fol­lows them in their cre­ation of an on­line com­mu­nity and the be­gin­nings of their coun­ter­protest. Their ef­forts, how­ever, would fail in the face of well-en­dowed an­ti­seal cam­paigns.

This ban, al­though it in­cludes a clause which al­lows for the Inuit peo­ples to con­tinue their hunt, has neg­a­tively af­fected the com­mu­nity. Seal skin prices have dra­mat­i­cally de­clined, which has an im­pact on all facets of Inuit daily life, es­pe­cially when a cab­bage in Nu­navut can cost $27. When the ban was in­tro­duced, its dis­rup­tion am­pli­fied the marginal­iza­tion and op­pres­sion In­dige­nous pop­u­la­tions al­ready face, re­sult­ing in such bleak con­se­quences as in­creased sui­cide rates. With a de­tailed ac­count of life in Iqaluit, Ar­naquq-baril shows the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of main­stream an­i­mal rights ac­tivism on her com­mu­nity.

An­gry Inuk presents the anti-seal ac­tivist Na­tional Gov­ern­ment Or­ga­ni­za­tions as near-car­i­ca­tures that are as ab­sorbed in their cause as they are trag­i­cally mis­guided. The doc­u­men­tary uses il­lus­tra­tions, statis­tics, and in­ter­views to evoke ag­gra­va­tion in the au­di­ence while main­tain­ing a tone of re­straint and un­der­stated anger. The au­di­ence learn that the adorable, fluffy seals are not in dan­ger, and that ac­tivist groups ex­ploit the sen­sa­tion­al­ist im­age of the teary seal be­cause it pro­duces a huge profit. In re­al­ity, all seals are teary, not due to sad­ness, but due to the harsh cold.

By chal­leng­ing ac­tivist groups to re­con­sider their skewed vi­sion of her lived re­al­ity, Ar­naquq-baril demon­strates the vi­o­lence of cli­mate change ac­tivism that ig­nores the ways of life, cul­ture, and lived ex­pe­ri­ences of In­dige­nous peo­ples. Or­ga­ni­za­tions like Green­peace use gory cam­paign images to tar­get Inuit seal hun­ters, de­mo­niz­ing Inuit com­mu­ni­ties and per­pet­u­at­ing colo­nial and racial stereo­types. The celebrity fol­low­ings of such or­ga­ni­za­tions fur­ther un­der­cut In­dige­nous ac­tivism. An­gry Inuk calls for change both poignantly and earnestly as Ar­naquq-baril takes a stand for her Inuit com­mu­nity.

An­gry Inuk high­lights the im­por­tance of self-rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the po­tency of so­cial me­dia ac­tivism. The film chal­lenges tra­di­tional anti-seal rhetoric with starkly beau­ti­ful images, il­lus­trat­ing a haunt­ing prob­lem that is ul­ti­mately un­re­solved. It also makes clear the au­di­ence’s re­spon­si­bil­ity in re­liev­ing the plight of Inuit peo­ples liv­ing in so­cio-eco­nomic marginal­iza­tion. Inuk anger may not be plas­tered on mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar bill­boards but it is nonethe­less es­sen­tial.

Cindy Lao | The Mcgill Daily

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