Two cultures in distant lands connected by a shaman in their mutual pasts. An always changing environment that needs to be adapted to. A dying language. A journey.
It sounds like the latest fantasy novel from George R.R. Martin or J.R.R. Tolkein – but really it’s a documentary by two Canmore filmmakers who happened to stumble upon an incredible story to tell.
Vanishing Point, shot by partners Stephen Smith and Julia Szucs, and produced by the NFB, follows narrator Navarana Kavigaq Sorensen as she journeys across both Greenland and Baffin Island, Canada.
Stephen first encountered Navarana on a ski expedition, 20 years ago. She worked with them as a translator. Navarana speaks six languages, and Stephen noticed that she seemed well-grounded amongst the “phenomenal changes her people were going through.” Navarana said that she wanted to tell a story from a woman’s perspective.
Navarana’s ancestor, a shaman from Baffin Island, lead a migration to Greenland in the 1860s – bringing technology and new bloodlines to her forbearers. Navarana follows families from both countries on their annual hunting trips – connecting with distant relatives more than 150 years after the shaman, Qitdlarssuaq’s initial journey.
“A central part of the film is food and family,” said Szucs. “It’s a big focus of their culture.”
The two families have to deal with adapting to changes – from global warming, to isolation, to an increasingly modernized society. It’s strange to see the same people hunting narwhal and shopping at a local grocery store.
Szucs and Smith spent approximately seven weeks filming with Navarana. They travelled by kayak and dog sled over remote areas of the arctic.
One of the main reasons to tell the story, according to Smith, was to remind how disconnected they are from their environment and land. “We wanted to remind them to be connected, at a heart level, not an intellectual level.”
They also wanted to start a conversation. “Many Inuit in Greenland know about Canada, but how many Canadians know about Greenland?” Smith asked.
“They have a connected culture, blood, and tradition.”
The film will also be translated into Inuktun – a Greenlandic language similar to the dialect from Baffin Island. It has under 1,000 speakers and is an oral language. The film-makers hope that the film will act as a time capsule for the language to pass on for future generations.
Vanishing Point screened at the Calgary International Film Festival this September. It’s travelling to Yellowknife, Toronto, and Banff in the coming weeks. You can view the trailer here: http://www.nfb.ca/film/vanishing_point_clip_1/