PEOPLE OF A FEATHER (Joel Heath) 90 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 20) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. For times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
This spectacular documentary not only sheds light on the survival of a specific Inuit population but also offers important insight into the complexities of global warming.
The Sanikiluaq community living around the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay has depended on the eider duck for warmth and food for centuries. But to fill the insatiable demand for electricity from cities as far south as the U.S. eastern seaboard, Quebec Hydro has been creating reservoirs that flood the salty bay with fresh water, changing the ice patterns and threatening the eider population in the process.
Joel Heath became involved in a late-90s study - watching birds dive for food - and later filmed the Sanikiluaq, who speak eloquently of their changing way of life, through seven winters.
The images run the gamut from gorgeous shots of eider flocks flying to their water oases within vast stretches of ice, to graphic footage of the Inuit carving up a seal for consumption, or eiders being trapped between converging ice floes, all of it expertly shot.
And Heath's strategy of comparing modern Inuit methods - of gathering eider eggs, for example - with the ways of the Inuit 100 years ago, re-enacted here, is genius.
Great filmmaking - and not just for the enviro-conscious.
A Q&A with filmmaker Heath follows the Friday (April 20) 6:30 pm screening.