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People of a Feather


May/June 2012

In the late 1990s, the Inuit community of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, raised concern over large die offs of Eider ducks that spend the winter around the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay. This concern initiated the interest of researchers including Joel Heath who began filming the birds underwater to determine how changes in sea ice were impacting their ability to survive the harsh winter conditions. For seven winters he filmed and worked closely with the people of Sanikiluaq to develop an understanding of how the community was adapting in the face of significant changes.

People and Eiders alike have evolved intimate relationships with the natural cycles of the landscape.These relationships are being challenged as hydro dams on the mainland force significant changes to the hydrologic cycle of Hudson Bay. In a convergence of science and art, man and nature, past and present, Heath and the people of Sanikiluaq have succeeded in bringing these challenges to the screen with an award-winning documentary, People of a Feather.

With sparse dialogue, the film gives powerful breathing space to Heath’s mesmerizing,often heart-wrenching footage of Eider ducks finding their way through unfamiliar conditions.With energizing hope, his lens follows a parallel journey of the community as they take action to recalibrate a relationship with their shifting landscape.

The film is punctuated by beautifully rendered sequences that recall life on the Belcher Islands 100 years ago. A sealskin qajaq weaves a route through a maze of shifting summer sea ice to a colony of nesting Eider ducks. An elder coaxes metallic sounds from a plucked Eider feather.Illuminating the role of a people not as components in but components of a landscape, these glances to the past carry further purpose as the narrator explains ‘’…by seeing how we have changed, we can better adapt to the future…” People of a Feather has picked up awards at the Vancouver International Film Festival, The Vancouver Film Critics Circle and The San Francisco Ocean Film Festival.

Visit their website for more information and a list of screenings.