Animation from Cape Dorset


This collection assembles the first animated films made by Inuk artists at the National Film Board of Canada. Featured are works by Solomonie Pootoogook, Timmun Alariaq, Mathew Joanasie, and Itee Pootoogook Pilaloosie—all participants in the Kinngait (formerly Cape Dorset) Film Animation Workshop on Baffin Island. The soundtrack features performances by Aggeok and Peter Pitseolok. Commentary is provided in Inuktitut and English. – NFB

ONLINE SCREENING DATES: January 9 – January 30, 2023

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: Animation from Cape Dorset, 19 min, 1973
This series is co-selected and presented with COUSIN collective and is generously funded by a Digital Now grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Animation from Cape Dorset, 19 min, 1973

This remarkable collection of 16 short films created in the early 1970s stands as a formidable and collective artistic statement by four Inuk artists from the Sikusilarmiut animation studio, located in Kinngait ᑭᙵᐃᑦ (formerly Cape Dorset). Here the term “animation” should be understood in its most expansive definition. The artists employ drawing and painting, photography and collage, rotoscoping, sand animation, pixilation, and live-action cinematography, along with many other innovative techniques. Each work is freely expressive in its use of image, color, shape, abstraction, and representation, with narration (in Inuktitut and English) as well as delightfully original soundtracks comprised of traditional throat singing, orkatajjaq ᑲᑕᔾᔭᖅ, Inuit storytelling, and folk songs. They offer an invaluable view into the everyday life of Indigenous peoples in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, mixing traditional Inuit legend and myth with images from seal hunts and photo collages of family and friends, along with depictions from the natural landscape in the Arctic Archipelago. Astonishing resonances with work by other boundary-pushing moving image artists around the world immediately come to mind. These films by Solomonie Pootoogook, Timmun Alariaq, Mathew Joanasie, and Itee Pootoogook Pilaloosie should be discussed with equal reverence as those of Robert Breer, Maria Lassnig, and Pramod Pati for their highly original approach to filmmaking.

In October 1972, the English Program Animation Studio launched the Arctic Film Workshop in Cape Dorset, an Arctic centre for culture and events. Training sessions in animation were held there, with the participation of a dozen young Inuit. These budding animators quickly started producing films. The workshop was called Sikusilarmiut, which in English means “the People from the place where the ice meets the sea.” Dozens of films came out of it, using a range of animation techniques, including paper cut-outs, photo collage, pixilation, traditional drawing, and sand on glass. The films were shot onsite, with the material then sent to the NFB in Montreal for processing, before being returned to Cape Dorset. The editing, sound effects, and soundtrack were all done at the workshop by the filmmakers. The narration was in Inuktitut and English. This workshop introduced the talents of many Inuit filmmakers to the world, including Timmun Alariaq, Pitaloosie, Sorosilutoo, Mathew Joanasie, and Solomonie Joe Pootoogook—all trailblazers in the world of Inuit animated film. The Animation from Cape Dorset (1973) collection is a compilation of some of these films. – Marc St-Pierre

Read Inuit Cinema at the NFB I Curator’s Perspective on the NFB’s website.

Watch the documentary Sikusilarmiut (1975) on the NFB’s website.

All stills, photographs, and artwork courtesy © Solomonie Pootoogook, Timmun Alariaq, Mathew Joanasie, Itee Pootoogook Pitaloosie, National Film Board of Canada. Screening co-presented with NFB