FRAMED Nunatsiavut Films Reaching Many Viewers

By Eva Crocker

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FRAMED Nunatsiavut participants with FRAMED producer Jenn Brown, photo by Malin Enstrom

FRAMED is a five day, educational filmmaking camp offered by the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. A professional film mentor, producer and editor teach participants how to use professional film gear and editing software. Over the course of the five day camp participants and mentors work together to make a short film. The participants are invited to see their completed films debut at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.

This year the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival partnered with the Nunatsiavut Government to facilitate two FRAMED Camps in Labrador. As a part of the partnership the Nunatsiavut Government flew participants to St. John's for the Festival, where they were able to attend all the screenings including two screenings of their own films. The FRAMED Nunatsiavut films, “Handcrafted Hopedale” and “katatjanik utippalianinga (The Return of Throat singing)” screened at The Rooms as part of a Coffee & Culture event and later at the LSPU HALL. Both films explore traditional Inuit cultural practices that have survived in spite of the long history of forceful attempts to eradicate Inuit culture.

“Handcrafted Hopedale” is a documentary that profiles three craftspeople working in Hopedale. The participants interviewed two carvers and a sewist in their community about their work.

“katatjanik utippalianinga (The Return of Throat singing)”, shows that traditional throat singing is thriving in Nain. Maxwell Saksagiak, a FRAMED participant who worked on the film told me, “We decided to make a documentary that would export our culture and give people in the outside world some perspective on what we do.”

Throat singing is a traditional type of singing that Inuit women do in pairs. It requires talent and training and can be straining on the singer’s vocal cords. Caroline Nochasak, a participant in the FRAMED Nunatsiavut camp that created “katatjanik utippalianinga (The Return of Throat singing)” performed several throat songs with Althea Solomon for the audience at the Coffee & Culture event. The young women faced each other during the performance and held each other’s elbows. Their singing technique had the unique effect of melding the two women’s voices so that it was impossible to tell who was making which of the very distinct sounds within the melody. Caroline turned to the audience between songs to explain the next song was meant to replicate the sound of geese passing overhead. The song begins by imitating the sound of geese in the distance, builds to sound like geese directly above and closes with the sound of geese fading as they move out of earshot.

After the event I spoke with Caroline, who said she learned her first throat song four years ago and has been throat singing ever since. She is passionate about music and wants to study music in university. She described throat singing saying, “Throat singing is traditionally done by women, when hunters went out to harvest the women stayed behind and entertained themselves by singing. They sang the things they heard around them, like the sea gulls, the geese and the river. Throat singing is a competition, whoever messes up or laughs first loses, it’s a game and it’s also really beautiful.”


Caroline Nochasak and Althea Solomon singing, photo by Malin Enstrom

The film explains that throat singing is one of many Inuit cultural practices that were almost eradicated by the residential school system. Francine Couture, the FRAMED Nunatsiavut coordinator spoke at the Coffee & Culture event, she was happy participants decided to make a film that was political. For her, it was important that the participants chose to talk about the fact that throat singing was almost lost.

The National Film Board of Canada will be adding this year’s FRAMED Nunatsiavut films to their permanent library, which can screen all over the world. The Walrus is also planning to host the films on their website as part of their permanent collection. Jenn Brown, the St. John's International Women's Film Festival's Industry Liaison and FRAMED producer is currently submitting the films to several film festivals in order to share the films with as many viewers as possible. The Nunatsiavut Government and The St. John’s International Women's Film Festival are hoping to continue their partnership and run more FRAMED camps in Labrador.