Film on Montreal symphony's Nunavik tour makes debut

A unique documentary that pairs l'Orchestre symphonique de Montreal (OSM) with Inuit throat singers and storytellers will premier this weekend at the World Film Festival.

A unique documentary that pairs l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) with Inuit throat singers and storytellers will premier this weekend at an international film festival in Montreal.

Tusarnituuq! Nagano In The Land Of The Inuit follows the OSM — led by renowned conductor Kent Nagano — and Canadian Inuit performers as they toured three remote communities in Nunavik, a predominantly Inuit region in northern Quebec, in September 2008.

The 52-minute documentary debuts Saturday at the Cinéma Quartier Latin in Montreal, as part of the World Film Festival.

Director Félix Lajeunesse said the collaboration was challenging because of the differences between throat singing and classical music, but audience members in Inukjuaq, Kangirsuqjuaq and Kuujjuaq loved it.

"The crowd was responding so well to the music, it was very moving to see," Lajeunesse told CBC News.

"These people really, I think, felt the generosity of this initiative and responded very positively to it."

The Nunavik tour, the first such foray for the Montreal orchestra, included performances of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat with Inuktitut-language narration by Jobie Weetaaluktuk.

'Go exactly with the flow'

The OSM also performed Take the Dog Sled, an original composition by Canadian composer Alexina Louie that incorporated throat singing by Evie Mark and Taqralik Partridge.

"Kent Nagano's really well known internationally," Mark said of the orchestra's Japanese-American conductor.

"It's like, 'Oh my God, when he cues me, am I going to make the cue? Will I make a mistake?' Because once I'm cued, I have to go exactly with the flow."

Mark, who was raised in Ivujivik, said she quickly agreed to join the OSM's Arctic tour because she likes to try new things.

She prepared for the experience by attending some symphony concerts in advance, she said.

"I said, 'OK, I'm going to try to make [an] effort to go to the orchestra so that I can appreciate it more so that I don't kind of fall asleep,'" Mark said.

"So I went to the orchestra maybe three or four times, and I really started appreciating it only after I realized how complicated music, classical music can be."