With a healthy turnout at the Mayfair Theatre, the well-loved CBC personality Shelagh Rogers wasted no time introducing Northwords , a film that was clearly a labor of love for her and her team. The lasting effect of the film on Rogers was palpable as she expressed the impetus of the project with great enthusiasm. Her aim had been to pick five Canadian writers to join her on a literary adventure, delving into the remote and starkly beautiful Torngat Mountains National Park in order to evoke inspiration and dialogue with the North.
Northwords did not disappoint. From the drawing of the curtains, to the thunderous applause ending the fifty minute documentary, director Geoff Morrison and cinematographer Stephen Chung invited us on a journey of raw, unmitigated beauty that stirred something in everyone present.
The film documents the five writers’ process of working through their own distinct responses to what seems like a completely foreign land and way of living. The viewer observes each of them arrive at a deep respect and admiration for the people of the land and their relationship with it, cultivating in them, as well as the viewer, a small whisper for a release from cell phones and asphalt. You can sense something coming alive in each of them as their journey goes on.
Morrison and Chung’s eye for the inescapably harsh beauty of the terrain draws the viewer into a world that is only juxtaposed by the warm and intimate relationships of the Inuit people that co-manage the land in partnership with Parks Canada. The historical and cultural relationship the Inuit have with the land is humbling and often a point of pause and reflection for the group of five writers.
Once the film was finished, some of the writers that made the journey with Rogers took questions. The theme of relationship weaved throughout much of the discussion: the relationships in the film between the five writers, the crew, the hospitable Inuit who welcomed everyone into their home and the clear relationship with the land that all experienced.
Northwords succeeds at showing us a part of Canada that too few of us have ever experienced, as well as a people and way of life that we often too easily dismiss. Rogers and Morrison sound the clarion call to engage and step outside of ourselves. They do so with a grace and sincerity that pays respect to the land and its people.