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Celebrated Inuit performer Tanya Tagaq reclaims the controversial 1922 film Nanook of the North. The Polaris Music Prize and Juno Award-winning vocalist employs exquisite, unnerving improvisations, as much rooted in traditional roots as in contemporary culture.
Nanook of the North is considered the world's first major work of non-fiction filmmaking, yet it is rife with contradictions. The film portrays the lives of an Inuk family in Arctic Canada. Its director, Robert Flaherty, lived and worked with Inuit for years, but still included staged scenes of buffoonery and feigned Inuit ignorance of modern accoutrements.
Working with composer Derek Charke, Tagaq, along with percussionist Jean Martin and violinist Jesse Zubot, performs a live accompaniment to the film's silent images of life in an early 20th-century Inuit community in Northern Quebec.
Drawing on her childhood on Nunavut's Victoria Island, and on her mother's memories of forced relocation from the film's Northern Quebec location, Tagaq's sense of the sound of the Arctic spaces shown in the film transforms the images, adding tremendous feeling and depth to what is a complex mix of beautiful representations and racially charged clichés.
Tanya Tagaq in concert with Nanook of the North was commissioned by the Toronto International Film Festival, where it premiered to critical acclaim in 2012 as part of TIFF First Nations.
“… [Tagaq] made (Inuit throat singing) sound fiercely contemporary, futuristic even. Recalling animal noises and various other nature sounds, she was a dynamo, delivering a sort of gothic sound art while she stalked the small basement stage with feral energy.” —Jon Caramanica, THE NEW YORK TIMES