Tuktoyaktuk teens taking documentary to next level

After screening first part of their documentary 'Happening to Us' at COP25 in Madrid, the four youth are planning to expand it into a full feature film

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Roslyn Rogers joins Nathan Kuptana, Carmen Kuptana and Eriel Lugt take a break underneath the Christmas tree after a long journey to Madrid and back. They team of four showed their 22-minute documentary seven times to the global audience at the UN COP25. Missing: camera operator Darryl Tedjuk.

They may have already traveled over 14,000 kilometres already, but for a team of four Tuktoyaktuk documentarians the journey is just beginning.

Nathan Kuptana, Carmen Kuptana and Eriel Lugt showed the first part of their documentary, Happening to Us at the Midnight Sun Complex Dec. 16, right after getting back from the United Nations’ COP25 climate change conference in Madrid, Spain, which was held Dec. 2-13. Darryl Tedjuk was unable to make the screening as he was ill.

In the film, the students interview elders, scientists and residents of Tuktoyaktuk about the issues facing the community — the receding coastline, the warming climate and trying to get the community away from diesel fuel.

“I really liked doing the interviews,” said Eriel Lugt. “The editing was also very fun. Being able to tell our story feels really great.”

Initially, they were invited to the conference to show their documentary twice. In the end, they screened it seven times, showing the film to world leaders and dignitaries.

“My favorite part of the trip was meeting with the ambassador,” said Nathan Kuptana. “We asked him a lot of tough questions and he was very down to earth. Most leaders just dodge the question.

“Seeing Greta Thunberg was amazing. It inspired me to focus more. She was away from home for 70 weeks and now she’s finally home.”

Now, the team plans to build on their momentum, taking the 22-minute film and expanding it into a full-feature. With the problems identified, the four hope to look at possible solutions for their second act.

“Our movie isn’t finished yet. This is just our first half of what we want to,” said Carmen Kutpana. “For the second half, we want to do solutions and look more about about how our culture is being affected.”

Nathan Kuptana interviews physical scientist Dustin Whalen in the documentary ‘Happening to us’, a 22 minute documentary that was aired seven times at the United Nations COP25 conference in Madrid.

Overseen by TukTV, a collective of 10 students who are learning the art of film making, the four teens came to the project without any direction from teachers or parents. In fact, they weren’t even registered for the class, they just showed up and started working.

Having all gotten the film making bug, several of the youth are now considering pursuing futures in film making or even journalism. Lugt noted that the only way these stories would be told is if someone tells them.

“I really enjoyed introducing my culture and seeing other cultures,” said Lugt. “There was a lot of people dancing, it was very beautiful.”

Getting to Madrid and meeting other groups dealing with climate change also helped expand the groups worldview, noting they made good connections with a Maori group from New Zealand as well as a team of Kanaka Maoli from Hawaii who are also on the forefront of climate change.

Producer Jaro Malanowski said the team was hoping to plan future trips to visit some of the new friends they met at the conference.

Having seen the impact they’ve made, all four of the team said they were inspired to look deeper into working towards helping their community.

“This trip was a great learning experience for me of what I want to do with my life, if I want to be a politician or something like that,” said Carmen Kuptana. “And also how to be strong and believe in something. That if you actually in the effort you can make a difference.”

A trailer for the documentary can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/376275443

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