Indigenous film wins Amplify Voices Award at Toronto International Film Festival

Monday, September 18th, 2023 2:01pm


Image Caption

Co-director Lucy Tulugarjuk of the film "Tautuktavuk (What We See)" also plays one of the leads. Tulugarjuk plays Uyarak who suffers domestic violence and flees her home in Igloolik, Nunavut to heal in Montreal. Photo courtesy Isuma Distribution International.


“This was our opportunity to create something from two women, to show Inuit women’s lives never seen before.” —co-director Lucy Tulugarjuk
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

UPDATE: Following an award-winning premiere at TIFF, Tautuktavuk (What We See), from directors Lucy Tulugarjuk and Carol Kunnuk, to screen at 2023 ImagineNATIVE Wednesday, Oct, 18 at 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1

Read our story here:

An Indigenous film that had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has won a festival award.

During a ceremony held on the final day of the festival on Sept. 17 it was announced that the film titled Tautuktavuk (What We See) had captured the Amplify Voices Award as the Best BIPOC Canadian Feature.

The film features a pair of sisters, Uyarak and Saqpinak, who are from the Inuit hamlet of Igloolik in Nunavut. After experiencing domestic violence in her community, Uyarak flees to live in Montreal.

Throughout the film the sisters share information via Zoom calls about how Uyarak is coping with counselling and regaining cultural connections.

Uyarak does not remember many details of the night that caused her to escape to Montreal, but her sister’s recollections of the evening help in Uyarak’s healing process. It is revealed that Saqpinak is too a victim of domestic violence.

The movie was shot in both Montreal and Igloolik during the pandemic.

The TIFF jurors who selected the Amplify Voices Award were Tamil producer V.T. Nayani, New Delhi filmmaker Nisha Pahuja and Cuban film editor Ricardo Acosta.

“The makers of this film powerfully capture truth in its most unadorned form, turning the camera inward to both look at and listen to themselves and their community, placing trust in and honouring the authenticity of their voices,” reads a jury statement about Tautuktavuk (What We See)  that followed the announcement of its award selection. The jury describes the film as a “powerful self-representation” that “honours rituals that have been and rituals that are made anew, reflecting a rare purity in its filmmaking approach.”

Co-directs of Tautuktavuk (What We See) are Carol Kunnuk and Lucy Tulugarjuk. They also play Saqpinak and Uyarak in the film, respectively.

“It was challenging to make the story into a film, showing audiences what we are experiencing in the north and what it’s like being away from family while living in the south away from home,” Kunnuk said.

“But there is always a connection between close family, thanks to technology. I have seen this culture change in front of my eyes since the day I started working for films,” she said.

Kunnuk made her directorial debut in 2001 with a documentary film titled Mother. She has also acted in a handful of other movies before Tautuktavuk (What We See).

The film is expected to be released in theatres this winter and coming spring.

Next up, however, is a screening this Wednesday, Sept. 20 at the Atlantic International Film Festival being held in Halifax.

Tulugarjuk is thrilled the film had its world debut in Canada’s largest city.

“It’s touching on a sensitive topic but an important one,” she said.

Tulugarjuk also appreciated the film capturing TIFF’s Amplify Voices Award.

“Thank you to everyone who selected our film,” she said. “Thank you for this space and support.”

The filmmakers stress their movie is not about revisiting episodes of domestic violence or abuse. Instead, they want to focus on characters who are lifting themselves up after trauma.

“I’m proud of Carol and myself for being involved with this film,” Tulugarjuk said. “We can relate to each other in some sort of way.”

In a director’s statement for the film, Tulugarjuk said she was pleased to work for the first time with Kunnuk as her co-director.

“This was our opportunity to create something from two women, to show Inuit women’s lives never seen before,” she said.

“Our mothers did not have a voice in the way we have a voice now. We both take very seriously that we are messengers from our families and communities. We are the ones with the tools to make films of women speaking from their experiences—tools to work towards changing some of the terrible injustices we live with.”

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.