2 films made in Nunavut shine at TIFF

Nunavut was in the spotlight at the Toronto International Film Festival this week with the opening of two movies filmed in the territory: Maliglutit and Two Lovers and a Bear.

Maliglutit (Searchers) and Two Lovers and a Bear opened at TIFF this week

Co-director Natar Ungalaaq, composer Tanya Tagaq, and director Zacharias Kunuk at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of Maliglutit (Searchers) on Sept. 12. (Jeremy Chan/Getty Images)

Nunavut was in the spotlight at the Toronto International Film Festival this week with the opening of two movies filmed in the territory: Maliglutit and Two Lovers and a Bear.

Maliglutit, Zacharias Kunuk's newest film, premiered on Monday with a surprise performance from Tanya Tagaq.

Kunuk, an Inuk filmmaker from Igloolik, is best known for Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner which won the Caméra d'Or for Best First Feature at Cannes in 2001. His second feature, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, opened TIFF in 2006.

Now Maliglutit (Searchers), a retelling of John Ford's 1956 western The Searchers promises to become another addition to Kunuk's canonical films set in the North. The film, a collaboration with Natar Ungalaaq, is shot against the landscape of the Canadian Arctic and tells the story of a husband in search of the men who kidnapped his wife.

"I'm very happy with it and the actors," said Ungalaaq. "They learned very quickly."

On Tuesday, Two Lovers and a Bear screened at TIFF.  The romance about two star-crossed lovers who find refuge from their pasts in the Arctic was partly filmed in Iqaluit, and in Timmins, Ont. It is Montreal-born director Kim Nguyen's first fiction film following his Academy Award–nominated Rebelle (War Witch).

Iqaluit's Vinnie Karetak, one of the actors in Two Lovers and a Bear, was present for the TIFF screening.

He said the film is a testament to the burgeoning filmmaking community in Nunavut.

"We are tired of watching fake Inuit actors," he said.

Karetak said he wants to see more filmmakers work with Inuit actors when telling stories about the Arctic.

With files from Michael Salomonie and Elyse Skura