John Walker’s (top) experiences in Nunavut as a 16-year-old inspired him to make this doc.
ARCTIC DEFENDERS (John Walker). 90 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (January 17). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
In 1968, working a summer job on a supply ship, Montreal teenager and aspiring filmmaker John Walker visited Resolute Bay in what is now Nunavut. He never forgot the experience.
In 2012, Walker - now a documentary filmmaker (A Drummer's Dream) - returned to Resolute Bay to make Arctic Defenders. The project was commissioned to catch up with the native peoples there who were forcibly relocated in the 1950s by the government to bolster Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic and then virtually abandoned.
Much of the film is a grim recounting of the injustices visited upon the Inuit of Resolute Bay, who have long memories and aren't shy about sharing stories of the deception, bad faith and institutional racism the Canadian authorities employed at the time.
But just as I thought its title was chosen out of sarcasm, Arctic Defenders reveals that the people who ended up there refused to simply wither away, instead establishing a community with a bruised but unbroken sense of self-worth.
And if Walker's movie gets a little strident in itemizing their entirely understandable grievances, well, they've earned the right to be heard.