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Tautuktavuk (What We See) delivers palpable chemistry between Inuk sisters coping with fallout from colonialism

Tautuktavuk
Uyarak (Lucy Tulugarjuk) suffers flashbacks as a result of past trauma in Tautuktavuk (What We See).

There’s a scene of utter normality very early in the film Tautuktavuk (What We See). Two Inuk sisters, Saqpinak (Carol Kunnuk) and Uyarak (Lucy Tulugarjuk), go grocery shopping by themselves in different parts of Canada. Saqpinak is at the Co-op in Igloolik, a snow-blanketed hamlet in Nunavut close to the Melville Peninsula. Her sister is in snowy Montreal.

After returning home, they connect over Zoom to express their love for one another. They also joke in Inuktitut about the distance that Saqpinak must travel to buy her food. The sisters’ smiles are as bright as the Northern Lights.

But what’s unfolded in their lives is anything but normal to middle-class folks living in Southern Canada. Uyarak is in therapy in the big city to cope with the effects of a traumatic incident involving a priest in her home community. Meanwhile, Saqpinak keeps busy as a a broadcaster reporting on community activities.

Tautuktavuk (What We See) often comes across like a documentary as Saqpinak and Uyarak share their thoughts on a wide range of topics. They discuss everything from raising children to how police always believed the priests who denied sexually abusing their parents.

Tautuktavuk
Saqpinak (Carol Kunnuk) works as a broadcaster in Nunavut.

Moreover, through Saqpinak’s reporting on the tundra, viewers learn a great deal about their culture. The film shows how hunters lure seals to the shore. Other segments address the cultural significance of tattooing, ajaajaa songs, and swaying drum dancing.

According to the filmmakers, the title, Tautuktavuk, ends with a “k” to reflect that it represents two people’s point of view of the world.

Kunnuk and Tulugarjuk co-directed Tautuktavuk (What We See) in addition to starring in it. They’re no newcomers to filmmaking—and it certainly shows. Kunnuk directs and produces the TV show Welcome to My Qammag and her film credits include Attagatuluk and Being Prepared. Tulugarjuk directed Tia and Piujuq and acted in Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, among other films. Tulugarjuk directed Tia and Piujuq and acted in Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, among other films.

Tautuktavuk
The Zoom calls between the sisters make the film sometimes feel like a documentary.

There’s palpable chemistry and plenty of warmth on-screen between the two lead characters. While their dialogue might be fictitious, there’s an incredible ring of truth about how Tautuktavuk (What We See) depicts the lives of Inuit people.

The film also benefits from spectacular cinematography, riveting throat singing, and authentic performances from the many supporting cast members. It’s a must-see for anyone curious to learn more about the effects of colonialism on the Indigenous Peoples of the North.

Watch the trailer for Tautuktavik (What We See).

TIFF Lightbox is screening Tautuktavik (What We See) in Piers Handling Cinema until Thursday (March 14). Tickets are available at TIFF.netLearn more about underrepresented artists on the Toronto Spark website.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Toronto Spark editor Charlie Smith has worked as a journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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Arts for Canadians Tomorrow Society created Toronto Spark to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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Arts for Canadians Tomorrow Society is grateful to be held on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, that is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We acknowledge our privilege to be gathered on this land, and commit to work with and be respectful to the Indigenous peoples whose arts and stories inspire us to bring communities together.