Showcasing Cinematic Talent at the Arctic Arts Summit

An interview with curator Jeremy Emerson on selecting 50 short films to run throughout the festival. 

Circumpolar Collaboration Representation Technology
Two Inuit wearing white garments and winter hats are facing each other, smiling and clasping each other's elbows in front of a snow covered landscape.

As part of this year’s Arctic Arts Summit (AAS), the Yukon Cinema in Whitehorse, YT, played a daily looping program of more than 50 films by circumpolar artists. Organized by Western Arctic Moving Pictures and the Inuit Art Foundation with support from Telefilm Canada, Pirruvik: Circumpolar Short Films showcases a wide range of artistic practices, from animation to documentary.

Pirruvik curator Jeremy Emerson spoke to Mark David Turner, editor of the new book On Inuit Cinema | Inuit Takugatsaliukatiget, released this month by Memorial University Press, about the AAS’s short-film program.

Two Inuit wearing white garments and winter hats are facing each other, smiling and clasping each other's elbows in front of a snow covered landscape.
Eva Kaukai and Manon Chamberland, Throat Singing In Kangirsuk (still) (2019). © THE ARTISTS.

Mark David Turner: Tell me about where you are from and your work and film curation.

Jeremy Emerson: I’m originally from Fort Smith in the South Slave Region of the Northwest Territories. I now live in Yellowknife where I work as a filmmaker. I used to run Western Arctic Moving Pictures here in Yellowknife. For the past 12 years I’ve also been the director of the Yellowknife International Film Festival. The festival is hyper-local with content coming from the Yellowknife area and Northwest Territories but we also program films from the circumpolar world as well. 

MDT: How did the Pirruvik program come together?

JE: The Inuit Art Foundation was a great help. Folks there put me in touch with a lot of the delegates from the Arctic Arts Summit who made great recommendations. They identified films that really represented their regions and identified content from areas within those regions that might otherwise be overlooked. Programming an event of shorts—films that are roughly five minutes in length—presented its own challenge because a lot of short films don’t have distributors. The Canadian content was a little easier to program because I’m a little more dialed in on that.

Organizations like the National Film Board of Canada and Wapikoni Mobile have a lot of great content. Other countries were a little more challenging but organizations like the International Sámi Film Institute really came through for us. It’s difficult when you’re trying to find films from all the circumpolar regions under normal circumstances, never mind what’s happening with Russia. We couldn’t really program Russian films unless the filmmakers were working through another country. That proved to be quite a challenge.

MDT: How will the program work during the Arctic Arts Summit?

JE: We have four different programs running throughout the Summit, and each program runs about 70 minutes. The screenings will all be held in the Yukon Theatre and most of the programs will be screened three times, except for the third program in the event. The complete program is listed on the Yukon Theatre’s website as well as on the AAS site.

MDT: Are there any personal highlights for you?

JE: It’s hard to pick. I love them all for different reasons. Siku Allooloo’s short film Spirit Emulsion is fantastic. It’s made with actual film with a lot of love and with a lot of personal story in there. Jennie WilliamsNalujuk Night and Ossie Michelin’s Evan’s Drum are great. It’s remarkable they’re both coming out at the same time. There wasn’t a lot of content from Nunatsiavut at that length that I could find. Maria Fredriksson’s Svonni vs Skatteverket is great. It is about Swedish taxation and a Sámi woman’s ability to write-off her working dog, something we can relate to here in the Northwest Territories. Egil Pedersen’s Indigenous Police from Norway is also fantastic. There are a few music videos, some documentaries and some scripted dramatic content. I try to not be too heavy but mix things up a little to bring them on a little bit of a rollercoaster and end on a high. I hope the audience responds to that.

Credit: Siku Allooloo, Spirit Emulsion (2022). © THE ARTIST.


MDT: Do you have any plans to tour Pirruvik after the AAS?

JE: There are going to be additional screenings. For example, at the Yellowknife Film Festival. We will cherry-pick from the four programs to create one program there. We’re also talking with imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto about screening there. We’re also screening at the Adäka Cultural Festival, which is taking place in Whitehorse immediately after the AAS. We don’t have any plans to bring it online just yet. I’d rather do physical venues.

MDT: Do you find there are more short films being produced in the circumpolar world these days?

JE: It certainly seems that way. Greenland seems to be doing more work. Norway’s producing a lot of stuff right now. Sweden, too. In Canada, Yukon is always putting out great stuff. There’s more of a push and there’s more support. I don’t necessarily think that distributors and brokers have all the content. I get excited as a curator when I discover something from an emerging filmmaker and then showing that to the world and helping their careers along.

Credit: Egil Pedersen, Koftepolitiet (Indigenous Police) (2021). © THE ARTIST.


MDT: Why is Pirruvik important in the AAS?

JE: I would encourage people to come check it out; they might find a new filmmaker or learn something new about some one of these regions in these countries. The fact that we’re playing three of the programs three times each, every afternoon: you can fit them in with your other summit events. It’s a good place to wind down at the end of the day.


This article was originally published by the Inuit Art Foundation on June 27, 2022. Copyright the Inuit Art Foundation.