Watch the award-winning Angry Inuk, free this month on NFB.ca
Sometimes, you see a movie that makes you question the way you think about the world. It makes you step back and reevaluate everything you thought was right. It opens your eyes to new ideas. Most of all, it humbles you, forcing you to realize that you should never be too sure of anything. Angry Inuk is that movie. And this month, you can watch it for free.
At its core, Angry Inuk is a documentary about a way of life, and how that way of life is being threatened. It’s a bold, in-your-face account of how the Inuit community centres around the seal hunt, and how destroying that one tradition can destroy an entire way of life.
The film opens during an actual hunt, and we’re privy to all the steps that go into breaking down the seal. Once that’s done, the hunters return to town and throw a feast for anyone and everyone who’s hungry. The entire community comes out, wielding their own seal knives, and they all sit around and dig in.
I’ll admit, parts of this were a bit rough to watch. The skinning, fileting, and eating of raw seal meat is not something I’m accustomed to seeing. And the filmmaker is completely unapologetic. There are zero attempts to soften these scenes. A sign hanging in the hunter’s home reads, “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here.”
They’re not kidding.
Seal hunting as a way of life
But after watching this, there can be no doubt – seal hunting is an essential fact of life in this community. The meat sustains them and the skins clothe them. They use every part of the animal and for over 100 years, they took part in the global marketplace by selling skins to finance their hunts. For the Inuit, this is an ethical and sustainable way of life.
But thousands of miles away, purportedly well-intentioned activists feel differently. Armed with manpower and money, they’ve built up an anti-seal-hunting lobby so powerful they’ve swayed the minds of millions. Because of seal-hunting bans put into place 25 years ago and beefed up in recent years, the seal market crashed, resulting in the equivalent of our Great Depression for the Inuit.
The irony here is that the people pushing for the ban are the same ones who preach about eating ethically, sticking to a 100-mile-diet and saving the environment. And they are literally preventing the Inuit from doing exactly that. It’s mind-blowing when you think about it.
And when you take this all one step further, you realize how much of what we’re presented with in the media is a biased, privileged point of view. Of course animal rights are important. Of course we want to prevent cruelty to other living things. But the world is not a black-and-white place, and in many situations, there’s no clear right or wrong. But, as the film points out, it’s interesting to see how many people, from a distance, are willing to raise their voices without knowing all the facts.
For instance, is being a vegetarian the most ethical decision you can make when you live on the Arctic tundra, incapable of growing vegetables, and lettuce at the local grocery store costs $28.00 a head? Right.
Angry Inuk has its lighter moments, too
As hard-hitting as the film is, it also has its lighter moments, and I think that’s what makes it so engaging. There are scenes that are downright funny, that break the tension and remind you that you’re watching ordinary people who live their lives just like we live ours. Our culture and environments may differ, but deep down, we’re all the same.
The film and its director, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, work hard to educate and inform, without accusation or resentment towards the general audience. In an interview with Jen McNeely at She Does the City, she insists that no one should feel guilt about a past they’re not responsible for. Rather, learn from that past and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Her goal isn’t to shame anyone. In fact, she claims that “unshaming” is one of the main objectives of her film, for both the Inuit community and the population at large.
I watched the film with my two kids, 10 and 12. The elder one, my son, was fascinated by the entire thing, and my daughter was outraged. From her young perspective, she could not understand why one group of people would try to impede another’s way of life. It was a great opportunity for us to discuss customs, traditions, and diversity. Also, my daughter is now dying for a pair of seal-skin earrings.
It’s a phenomenal film, and it’s free for the month of September. Don’t miss this opportunity – watch it now.