German film crew documenting life, teaching youth in Arviat

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A German film crew is in Arviat to work on a virtual reality (VR) documentary series, Eggs, Rocks, Human Beings.

German cinematographer Fabian Klein, left, watches as Edith Issakiark tries out a state-of-the-art virtual reality viewer during an Arviat Film Society meeting in Arviat on Nov. 1, 2018. Photo courtesy Gord Billard
German cinematographer Fabian Klein, left, watches as Edith Issakiark tries out a state-of-the-art virtual reality viewer during an Arviat Film Society meeting in Arviat on Nov. 1, 2018.
Photo courtesy Gord Billard

The film crew consists of director Philipp Schaeffer, cinematographer Fabian Klein and creative producer Levin Hubner.

Schaeffer said the VR series will consist of five different videos tied together by the theme and stories of youth in Arviat.

“What we’re really trying to do is find some of the really unlimited stories of young people in Arviat that are fascinating and give them a voice,” said Schaeffer.

The director said each story has its own protagonist and dynamic depending on the life of the person they are looking at, but it’s all part of the same cosmos and, to him, the interesting thing will be to see the five different parts making one big picture together.

“We’re also continuing work on a documentary I started working on the previous time I was here in 2017 and we’re working with Gord Billard and the (Arviat) Film Society to produce one little short film with the students in co-production to come up with the creative-and-technical direction for the film.

“We hope to shoot that film this coming weekend.”

Schaeffer said he wants the VR series to weave through Arviat to the point where the community itself becomes a character in the documentary.

He said he wants viewers to realize everything they see in the series has to do with life in this little community in the south of the Kivalliq region.

“We are really interested in trying to use speeches that some elders give on the radio – about what it was like to grow-up in the old days when they were children – as a red thread to inform and contextualize the stories of the young people growing up today and I think the two fit perfectly together.

A local group of researchers – including Shirley Tagalik, Joe Karetak and a few others – have been doing tremendous work on IQ (Inuit Quajimajatuqangit) and one of the most important things within the focus of their work is what it takes to raise a capable human being.

The title of the series (Eggs, Rocks, Human Beings) is a tribute to that.

“As elder Rhoda Karetak says, ‘You can raise children to become fragile like eggs, hard like rocks or true human beings,’ – that’s the context we’re trying to put this series in, so we’re always looking for connections between what the elders know about child rearing and about how young people are growing up and finding their place in this world today,” said Schaeffer.

The crew is not trying to explain anything or tell a history that’s not theirs, he said.

Instead, they will present a collage of individual stories.

“The strength of this piece could be which stories the viewers find most interesting and that they get to engage in an array of individual stories from young people around Arviat that will give them some picture of what it feels like to grow up here.

Billard said the membership in the Arviat Film Society constantly changes from year to year so he never knows how many members will show up for a meeting on any given night.

He said he decided not to start up anything with the society this semester until Schaeffer’s arrival and the decision proved to be the right one.

“We had a really good turnout of about 20-to-25 people at our first meeting from the schools and the community to find out what this was all about,” said Billard. “There’s great interest generated already and I think it’s due in large part to the fact Philipp was here before and made those friendships and relationships and the fact I promoted it even more within the school and community to produce a little hype before he arrived.

“This is invaluable. We couldn’t pay for this kind of attention, training and interest in what we’re doing here, our little hamlet and the kids I work with every day.

“I can’t put into words how grateful and fortunate I feel that Philipp has fallen into our lap with his team and is so willing, enthusiastic and passionate about finding out about life here, documenting it and passing on his knowledge in helping to train our kids.”

Billard said the crew has also brought new technology which is quite exciting.

He said the society has done a lot of small films in the past and garnered a bit of acclaim for them here and there, but now they’re moving into VR, which has been a real draw for the kids who have been showing up.

“They brought along Google goggles or glasses which aren’t even on the market yet and the reality that you see with those on really is quite remarkable,” said Billard. “All the kids got a chance to put them on and get a feel for what it’s going to be like when their actual footage is going to appear inside those goggles.

“So it’s all new and exciting and we’re really grateful for this opportunity.”

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