Three filmmakers from the Northwest Territories received exciting news this week and some serious recognition.
Food For the Rest of Us is the name of a yet-to-be-released documentary that looks at farming — and living off the land — as activism.
And this past week, it got a big boost — a $20,000 grant from The Redford Center in the United States. The Redford Center was co-founded in 2005 by American actor Robert Redford and his son James Redford. It produces and funds projects that showcase environmental and climate justice, according to its website.
The film also got a nod in The Hollywood Reporter, an American entertainment news outlet.
The three women behind the project, director Caroline Cox, and producers Jerri Thrasher and Tiffany Ayalik, are from the N.W.T. The feature film is an extension of Wild Kitchen, a documentary show airing on Northwestel Community TV, which Cox and Ayalik worked on. All of its cast and crew are from the territory.
The idea behind Food For the Rest of Us is that farming or harvesting is an act of resistance, Cox says.
“If you’re in a marginalized community it’s generally like an oppressive system,” she said. “So the idea that if you’re growing your own food, then you have control of your destiny a little more acutely, I guess you could say.”
Cox says they found five stories from across North America and they are now in the post-production process of the film.
The stories include one of a Black urban farmer in Kansas City, Kan., doing outreach in his community, helping kids grow their own food. They also shot a story in Hawaii last fall at an organic farm, where students can get school credit for working there while learning about stewardship and getting paid.
They also filmed a group in Colorado called Queer Nature where people from the queer community are given the tools to be out on the land.
In their own part of the continent, the filmmakers wanted to document how northerners were supplementing their hunting and fishing in the wake of climate change.
They were drawn to communities in the N.W.T.’s Beaufort Delta region, all of which have started greenhouses.
“We just thought that was really interesting,” said Cox, adding “part of it is sad.”
“With climate change, the hunting patterns have changed so much, and then also because of the vast distances, food security and access to healthy food is really a challenge in the high Arctic.”
When it comes to being mentioned in high-profile news outlet The Hollywood Reporter, Ayalik says she was losing her mind.
“It was so amazing to just even get mentioned,” she said of the paragraph toward the end of the article.
“Just feeling so proud that we were the first film mentioned and, you know, here we are with these like other titans being recognized for the work that we’re doing.”
Ayalik says sometimes she feels people don’t necessarily understand the scale of the work they do.
“So to get recognized in this way is just like, so validating and just a huge honour, and we’re just we’re just so excited about it.”
Cox says they’re hoping to finish the film around the end of the year. They hope it can screen next fall at the Yellowknife Film Festival. Once it’s done its festival circuit, it will likely air on Northwestel, she added.