'A heroic effort': Feature film about Gwich'in soldier breaks barriers in N.W.T.
'There’s something just magical about hearing the language,' says Marie Clements, writer of Red Snow
They only had five days in the Northwest Territories, but a film crew managed to overcome snow and winds, some inexperienced actors and batteries dying at –26 C to shoot part of an Indigenous feature film, Red Snow.
The film is about a young Gwich'in man from Aklavik, N.W.T., who goes off to fight in Afghanistan and gets taken hostage by the Taliban.
"He kind of uses his life in the North, his growing up with his family … to survive what he's going through when he's captured," said film writer and director Marie Clements, who's of Cree-Métis descent.
The film, which will be shot in the territory and B.C., received funding from the CBC Breaking Barriers Film Fund, Telefilm Canada, APTN and the Northwest Territories Film Rebate program, among others.
Cast and crew filmed in Dettah, N.W.T., March 20 and wrapped up last weekend.
"It's still alive in me. I came home and kind of unthawed. [It] was a very vigorous shoot, as you can imagine, and our schedule was very ambitious," said Clements on Thursday.
Teaching child actors Indigenous languages
Red Snow's producer Michelle Morris said the team was like "fish out of water" in Dettah, coming from the West Coast.
But she said that desire for authenticity is why they came all the way up north to shoot, instead of finding a cheaper alternative down south.
Catering costs alone were in the thousands, finding accommodations for cast and crew was difficult, and lots of film equipment had to be trucked all the way from Vancouver, according to Morris. But they were determined to cast northern actors and feature Indigenous languages.
A total of four languages will be featured in the film — Gwich'in, Inuvialuktun, Pashto and English.
Indigenous and cultural advisors from Inuvik were on set to teach the local languages.
"We had children actors trying to learn the most difficult languages on this planet. And we had only five days," said Morris.
But Clements noted that it was an otherworldly experience.
"There's something just magical about hearing the language," said Clements.
"I think for actors to get that in their body, to get that in their spirit, and then to be able to perform, it's kind of a heroic effort," said Clements.
The shoot will continue in Kamloops, Whistler and Cache Creek, B.C., in May.
The aim is to screen the film by 2019.
With files from John Last, Jimmy Thomson, Loren McGinnis