Preparing for the Big Day
By Jobie Weetaluktuk
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Tomorrow the filming of Journals of Knud Rasmussen (JKR) begins. The pre-production preparations have been in the works for months. There are over 60 cast and crew for this production and many crafts persons on commission. This is a big deal for Igloolik. It's a big deal in Nunavut. It's a big deal for Canadian film making.
Zacharius Kunuk, the co-director of JKR is eager to get started, but Sunday afternoon he's gone rabbit hunting at Avajaa. There is always time to chill and get away from the predominant presence of JKR. "Once we get started, we just keep on going" says Kunuk, saying he is eager to get started and not anxious. For standing on the cusp of his biggest project to date, he is the picture of serenity. Taking his Yamaha VK skidoo to go rabbit chasing.
There are two sets of igloo complexes ready and waiting. One is buckling seriously under it's own weight. The consistency of snow being the main problem. The buckling has become a concern for the production team. The Aua's igloo palace was constructed in three days. It comprises seven domes clustered together with a common entrance and gathering place. It was a marvel of snow architecture when it was completed.
Captain Comer's ship is ready for shooting. Felix Lejeunnesse has been acquiring the props for this location for months now. Antique shops, film prop warehouses, and Ebay have been his hunting places for props circa 1920.
Rehearsals have been going on since March. Individuals learning their lines. Groups learning collective songs. Actors are bonding in family style relations. The main person to facilitate the rehearsals is Lucy Tulugarjuk. Tulugarjuk is best known as Puja, the devious second wife of Atanarjuat in Isuma's last film. She has been making sure the actors' needs are met, that the actors remain focused, in addition to many other jobs that come to her weekly.
The costumes department has been busy all winter. They have to make a costume for all the Igloolik/Naujaat actors and extras. Authentic period costumes. Qulitaqs, atigiis, qalliit, pualuit and so much more. The main challenge was to get all the skins they needed. Somehow, with many costumes doing double duty, they will have everyone dressed. The day of the fittings for the actors was one of the highlights for humour. Michelline Ammaq is the Director of Costumes, as well as an extra playing Taqunnaq. Her husband Palluq is played by Samson Qangnguq, a small dark man. When he was fitted with his parka, he was delighted. "It's so me" he exclaimed about the parka and the room erupted into laughter.
A camp is being constructed on north -western Baffin Island. The location is called Siorakjuk. It is as wild as any location in the arctic can get, 42 kilometres from Igloolik The cast and production crew will get there by dog-team and snowmobile. With every piece of nail and lumber coming through Igloolik, it's a major project. The entire camp will be powered by gas generators. Two executive shacks, six tents, a mess hall, and office. Water source remains the main challenge for the camp. There is no water in the liquid state for many kilometers. Glacial ice is the main source.
Then there will be the challenge of feeding the hungry lot. Jacques the cook, has been preparing the meals for two weeks now. He has ten coolers full of about 100 portions. Then he has some more pre-cooked vacuum bags in the freezer. About 800 meals in all and he has another month of cooking.
Louis Uttak is the Art Director. He is an unilingual Inuk in his 60's. Kunuk gushes that Uttak is "like a professor." His knowledge and judgment are highly regarded. He has seen much of the Igloolik implements, tools, weapons, and artifacts that are now being made into props. They are authentic replicas made by knowledgeable and skilled craftsmen. Men and woman who learned at their father's and mother's side.
Then there is Paulusie Qulitalik. An elder of in Igloolik and a co-founder of Igloolik Isuma Production Inc. The defender and promoter of all things Inuit in a humorous and gruff manner. Sometimes all in one action. He scrutinizes all things linguistic and cultural.
The production of the film has a helmsman in the person of Norman Cohn. Cinematographer of Atanarjuat, as well as co-founder of Igloolik Isuma Productions and Kunuk Cohn Productions. He is the businessman in the company: making things happen is his business. He has co-producers, sponsors, funders, and their individual and company concerns to deal with.
There are four Greenland Inuit, the Danish cast and representatives of the Danish co-producer Barok Films. They all have their needs and professional requirements. In the midst of all this is organism is the Arctic Films Ltd, Unit Management. Owned and operated by Francis Choquette, deals with everything from pillows to camp construction.