Alien invasion hits Pangnirtung in filming of sci-fi film

Writing an alien invasion movie set in a Nunavut community is no fluke — director Nyla Innuksuk says it’s perfect for exploring ideas like colonization and Indigeneity.

Nyla Innuksuk’s Slash Back follows a group of 14-year-olds battling extraterrestrials in Nunavut

Writer/director Nyla Innuksuk is filming a feature about an alien invasion in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. (Guy Godfrey)

Teen girls are fighting against an alien invasion in the first feature movie to ever be filmed in Pangnirtung, Nunavut.

Writer and director Nyla Innuksuk and a film crew of 50 people have descended on the Baffin Island community to begin filming Slash Back this week.

"I loved watching movies like E.T. and I grew up with horror movies," said Innuksuk. "So I had this idea about making a horror sci-fi movie that's [also] an adventure movie with a bunch of girls."

Writing an alien invasion movie set in a Nunavut community is no fluke — Innuksuk said it's perfect for exploring ideas like colonization and Indigeneity.

"With sci-fi you can be asking these big questions like, 'Who am I? Where do we come from?' ... in a way that is fun," she said. 

"Really this movie is a fun movie, but it's kind of hard to ignore the themes of an Indigenous community facing this invading force and the repercussions of that."

50 beds flown in for crew

Making a movie in a community of 1,500 — one facing a housing shortage at that — is a challenge, said Innuksuk. In fact, while she was in discussions with film executives in Toronto, she was told it just couldn't be done.

Innuksuk, who is from Igloolik, said she and her team have been following a set of protocols that is making the process a bit easier. They have been asking for consent, in Inuktitut, and integrating themselves into the community. People have since opened their homes and lent their vehicles to the cause.

"It's been really exciting in the past few weeks being up here, looking at locations, filming in real homes," said Innuksuk.

"We're working with real families to use their boats, [renting] production vehicles from the community. It's been an interesting experience and it feels a little bit crazy sometimes, but I think it's actually coming together."

Innuksuk says her team flew in 50 beds to accommodate the crew and they have been set up in Pangnirtung's two schools this summer.

Acting workshops

There was also the process of finding a group of teen girls to star in the movie.

"The casting for the lead girls [was set up] more as acting workshops," said Innuksuk. 

"I got to know some of the girls and they were really influential in writing some of the script. They would take me and my co-writer on the land, on boats. It really was a collaborative process." 

Innuksuk and her crew are filming in Pangnirtung until Aug. 27 and she hopes the movie will be ready for release in spring 2020.

Written by Randi Beers, based on an interview by Michelle Pucci