Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: People Of A Feather

The Inuit community on Hudson Bay struggles with technology and climate change.

Nov 7, 2013

-By Daniel Eagan


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1389038-People_Feather_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

With footage stretching back to 2002, People of a Feather tracks changes brought to Sanikiluaq, a remote community on the Belcher Islands in Canada’s Hudson Bay. Although beautifully shot, this leisurely documentary may be too soft-spoken to gain the attention its subject deserves.

Using time-lapse and underwater photography, director and cinematographer Joel Heath brings an austere Arctic landscape to life, capturing moments both beautiful and brutal. He takes an oblique approach to the material, first setting up a contrast between Inuit life a hundred years ago and today's world of ATVs and hip-hop.

It's an interesting idea, especially since Robert Flaherty filmed on the Belcher Islands in 1914-15. That footage was lost before the documentarian embarked on Nanook of the North. Heath re-stages some of the scenes in Nanook, but gradually drops the connections to both Flaherty and the past.

The bulk of People of a Feather instead splits its time between wildlife footage and ethnographic material. The former, which includes remarkable shots of eider ducks feeding on the Hudson Bay floor, would fit comfortably onto a PBS "Nova" episode. The latter—Inuit elders hunting and field-dressing seals, building wooden sleds, sewing parkas—has a distinctly educational feel.

It takes Heath a relatively long time to get to his main point: Climate change and encroaching technology are threatening a traditional way of life, as well as the environment as a whole. Warmer, shorter winters make the ice pack thin and unstable. On top of that, hydroelectric dams are releasing fresh water into Hudson Bay, affecting the entire ecosystem.

The dams tend to release water in the fall, when demand for electricity rises. The industry is essentially reversing the seasons in the Bay, which drains 40 percent of Canada. Since fresh water freezes before salt water, eider ducks can be trapped in ice, or cut off from their feeding grounds.

The Inuit and environmentalists successfully protested against some previous hydroelectric projects, but a massive new system went online in 2010. The industry promised comprehensive studies of the system's impact on the Bay; these have yet to take place.

Another director might have focused narrowly on the hydroelectric industry, but in People of a Feather Heath takes a more measured approach. In the process, he portrays the people of Sanikiluaq with sensitivity and insight. Their lives are what give this documentary its real value.


Film Review: People Of A Feather

The Inuit community on Hudson Bay struggles with technology and climate change.

Nov 7, 2013

-By Daniel Eagan


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1389038-People_Feather_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

With footage stretching back to 2002, People of a Feather tracks changes brought to Sanikiluaq, a remote community on the Belcher Islands in Canada’s Hudson Bay. Although beautifully shot, this leisurely documentary may be too soft-spoken to gain the attention its subject deserves.

Using time-lapse and underwater photography, director and cinematographer Joel Heath brings an austere Arctic landscape to life, capturing moments both beautiful and brutal. He takes an oblique approach to the material, first setting up a contrast between Inuit life a hundred years ago and today's world of ATVs and hip-hop.

It's an interesting idea, especially since Robert Flaherty filmed on the Belcher Islands in 1914-15. That footage was lost before the documentarian embarked on Nanook of the North. Heath re-stages some of the scenes in Nanook, but gradually drops the connections to both Flaherty and the past.

The bulk of People of a Feather instead splits its time between wildlife footage and ethnographic material. The former, which includes remarkable shots of eider ducks feeding on the Hudson Bay floor, would fit comfortably onto a PBS "Nova" episode. The latter—Inuit elders hunting and field-dressing seals, building wooden sleds, sewing parkas—has a distinctly educational feel.

It takes Heath a relatively long time to get to his main point: Climate change and encroaching technology are threatening a traditional way of life, as well as the environment as a whole. Warmer, shorter winters make the ice pack thin and unstable. On top of that, hydroelectric dams are releasing fresh water into Hudson Bay, affecting the entire ecosystem.

The dams tend to release water in the fall, when demand for electricity rises. The industry is essentially reversing the seasons in the Bay, which drains 40 percent of Canada. Since fresh water freezes before salt water, eider ducks can be trapped in ice, or cut off from their feeding grounds.

The Inuit and environmentalists successfully protested against some previous hydroelectric projects, but a massive new system went online in 2010. The industry promised comprehensive studies of the system's impact on the Bay; these have yet to take place.

Another director might have focused narrowly on the hydroelectric industry, but in People of a Feather Heath takes a more measured approach. In the process, he portrays the people of Sanikiluaq with sensitivity and insight. Their lives are what give this documentary its real value.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Congress
Film Review: The Congress

Part live-action, part cornea-searing animation, this cinematic overload is ambitious but ultimately fatigues as it plays with the intriguing notion of a fading Hollywood star selling rights so her cyberspace avatar can rise to superstardom and stay forever young in virtual reality. Flashy animation and cynical stabs at celebrity culture and movie-studio finagling keep things lively for a while. More »

The Last of Robin Hood
Film Review: The Last of Robin Hood

Serviceable vehicle for a salacious story. More »

Last Weekend
Film Review: Last Weekend

A sort of modern Chekhovian study of family tensions over a country weekend, this indie drama is very pretty to look at and at times disarming, but needed more punch. More »

The Notebook
Film Review: The Notebook

An aloof adaptation of Agota Kristof's best-seller that's technically impressive but precludes audience identification. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here