Solomon Uyarasuk documentary premieres to packed house in Iqaluit

Sol, a documentary on the life and death of Igloolik circus performer Solomon Uyarasuk, spurs discussions about mental health issues and the high rate of suicide in Nunavut.

Sol focuses on life and death of circus performer, while examining mental health issues and suicide

Solomon Uyarasuk was a musician, poet, and amateur acrobat. His death was the subject of an RCMP inquest last year.

A documentary about an Igloolik circus performer who died in an RCMP cell premiered in Iqaluit yesterday to a packed house in the city's Astro Theatre.

Sol focuses on the life of Solomon Uyarasuk, who performed with the circus group Artcirq. His 2012 death in a jail cell was the subject of a recent coroner's inquest, which recommended an investigation into his death be re-opened.

The film centres on several unanswered questions surrounding Uyarasuk's death, and serves as a springboard to talk about mental health issues and suicide.

Somber mood 

The atmosphere in the Astro Theatre began on a positive note, as the audience laughed at archival footage of Uyarasuk clowning around. But, that quickly gave way to dead silence, punctuated by sniffles and sobs. 

The film speaks to broader issues about Nunavummiut coping with losing their loved ones to suicide, an issue that reached record levels of impact as recently as 2013.

Rapper Brian Tagalik, from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, appears in the film, speaking about how he was able to channel his own questions into his music.

"The more I wrote, the more I tackled the system, the more I tackled these impossible questions of: 'Why?'" said Tagalik. "The more I was allowed to show other people, through my voice, exactly what's happening."

A short question and answer session followed the screening, with many moviegoers praising Sol. However, one audience member took exception to the film, saying that its use of Uyarasuk's death to speak about suicide is incorrect, as not everyone believes he took his own life. 

"Filmmaking is a way to look for the truth," said Marie-Hélène​ Cousineau, the film's co-director and co-producer. "So that's what we set out to do. I'm not saying we did find the truth, actually, but we did explore something."

Sol screens again tonight at Iqaluit's Astro Theatre.


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