About the Film
About Throat Song
Inspired by conversations with Inuit human rights activist Miqqusaaq, the dramatic short film Throat Song takes place in the icy landscape of Iqaluit, Nunvaut, a small town in the Canadian Arctic. Ippik (Ippiksaut Friesen), a young Inuk woman, is silently suffering from the pains of an abusive relationship. Lost in a community that’s been tragically separated from its past, Ippik, through a job with the Department of Justice, begins to connect with other victims of violence in her community, and seeks to reclaim her voice.
Throat Song Director’s Statement
I had wanted to direct a film for a long time and had been meditating on the idea of change and how and when we decide to make profound shifts in our lives. What pushes us to the brink of an experience or situation? What finally forces us to take a leap into where we want to go or need to go, but are afraid to go?
When we are stuck in something painful – an unhealthy living situation, relationship, job, emotional state – it is sometimes hard to see the way out of it. Even when the answer is right in front of us – the act of breaking free takes immense courage.
I became interested in making a film about a character that was caught in something painful – but it wasn’t until she connected to a similar pain in others that she was ultimately able to take a leap forward.
I like the idea that human beings need each other, rely on each other and have each other to lean on and learn from.
We are not islands as much as we sometimes feel that we are, and even though we can feel broken, we are better broken together, than apart.
I began spending time in stunning and magical Nunavut in July 2009. And was immediately captivated by the North – the incredible beauty of the land, the raw power of nature that is always present, and the effect of the light (or lack of) on everything and everyone.
I was also drawn to the people I met and their extraordinary stories – both tragic and funny.
In Rankin Inlet I met a woman named Miqqusaaq, and her stories of working as a victims’ witness assistant across Nunavut were shocking and painful.
Miqqusaaq had to dig deep into her emotional strength to do her job. She couldn’t hide from the darker parts of life around her. She was immediately connected to the pain in these communities – and in herself.
The final piece of the creative puzzle was the discovery of the extraordinary Ippiksaut Friesen. I had been holding auditions (over 300 kids were seen) across the Arctic for a feature film in July 2009 and had then flown the top 30 kids to an Acting Workshop in Iqaluit in November 2009.
The Workshop had a profound affect on me. These kids had been through extremely difficult times and a lot of tough living situations that included alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse and suicide.
What was remarkable was that their intelligence, curiosity, emotional strength and passion had not been diminished – their humor and joy remained intact.
As they dove into the acting process – their ability to be real in a moment and commit to the acting experience was remarkable. They weren’t afraid to access their emotions and Ippiksaut Friesen was a standout.
Through the students in the Acting Workshop, I became more aware then ever about the issue of suicide in the North.
There have been a lot of shifts and changes in Arctic life over the past 60 years. We all know the horror of residential schools and many young people today are the children of parents who have been deeply affected by that horror in some way. But what I am constantly awed by are the number of young people I met in Nunavut with positive attitudes and a desire to make positive changes.
A new spirited, happy and healthier Nunavut is emerging right now on the backs of the huge creative talents and energy of the youth – and where once there was a cultural Tsunami there is now a cultural renaissance.
When I sat down to write THROAT SONG – all of the above was spinning in my head – the desire to explore a character who was stuck but also on the brink of breaking free; all the pain and pleasure and beauty I had witnessed in Nunavut; and finally, the young actors I had met.
Exploring the idea of a character who has been isolated from others and alone in her pain, who is suddenly thrust into the personal pain of others is inherently dramatic – but especially so in the Arctic Nunavut which is also dealing with issues of being stuck between a past and a future.
Hopefully THROAT SONG is an inspiration that we can all relate to. The idea of making a change and living life on your own terms – free, honest and joyous. We all deserve that.
-Miranda de Pencier, September 2011
Q & A with Stacey Aglok MacDonald, Producer
THROAT SONG deals with difficult subject matters (abuse & suicide) that almost all Inuit have first hand experience with. Were you concerned about tackling this very sensitive issue?
“I am from a community in Nunavut that for a long time, had the highest rates of suicide in Canada (Kugluktuk). Although THROAT SONG does deal with issues of suicide, this film is really about finding the strength to move forward. It is a story about triumphing over pain and choosing life.”
How was it working with people from both the North and the South on a film that is set in the North?
“We all worked really hard to make this film happen, and to make sure that there were meaningful training opportunities for Nunavummiut (people from Nunavut). Miranda was very intent on getting creative input on the story from everyone involved in Nunavut. The resulting film is beautiful and genuine, and I hope empowering.
There are two dominant stereotypes about the North and about Inuit specifically. One is that we are a happy and wise people who have this beautiful and mystical connection to the land and its animals. The other is that we are plagued with abuse, suicide, alcoholism and poverty. I hope that Throat Song gives the southern audience a better sense of who we are. We are a people who have gone through many changes in an extremely short period of time, and we are fighting to overcome the side effects of those changes.
Maata Michael an Elder from Iqaluit who acted in Throat Song says in the film, “we Inuit used to know how to take care of each other. We must learn how to do this again”. That line has become the most important part of the film for me. This is the message that I leave THROAT SONG holding onto every time. It also really reinforces how proud I feel about being Inuk. We are very blessed to be who we are and live where we do and in this film, it is Maata Michael who reminds me of that.”