Nunavik's Paulusie Kasudluak was a teenager with big dreams, balancing traditional Inuit knowledge with modern life — until one bad choice changed everything and sent his life spiralling out of control.
That's the premise of Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque's full-length documentary Living with Giants, which just premiered at the Hot Docs international documentary film festival in Toronto.
The film watches as 18-year-old Kasudluak invites Rist and Leroux-Lévesque to his hometown of Inukjuak, Nunavik, in Northern Quebec to document his life.
The filmmakers initially head out to produce a lyrical film about the young man's connection to his culture and land.
"He was going to show us a side of Inuit culture that we've never saw before," said Rist.
"We were hoping to avoid all stereotypes that we hear about in the South about the North: violence, alcohol, suicide," said Leroux-Lévesque.
But despite their intentions Rist and Leroux-Lévesque encountered a different story.
When alcohol is smuggled into his dry community for a graduation party, Kasudluak gets drunk and, in a fit of jealousy over his new girlfriend, makes a mistake that alters the course of his life.
"He attacked somebody, he got arrested and was shipped out a couple of days later to a southern community where there was a prison," said Rist.
"When this happened we were forced to integrate what happened into our story," said Leroux-Lévesque.
Once out on bail Kasudluak tries to make amends with what he did but remains haunted by the incident.
"He just tried to cope with it, he tried to get around it, he tried to excuse himself but sometimes when you're isolated and there's no one in sight, the worst does happen," said Rist.
The documentary tells the story of one person and the impact of his choices on his immediate family and community, but the filmmakers think that there's a broader connection to be made.
Rist points to the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat and in other communities in the North as examples of the need for action.
"We want people to see this movie and get attached emotionally to the characters, so we as southerners stop seeing people as statistics or numbers."