Film from Northwest Territories kicks off Canada-wide, pandemic-themed documentary series

Actor and filmmaker Melaw Nakehk’o and CBC North’s Shannon Scott go on CBC’s Northbeat, in this file photo. As of Monday, Nakehk’o’s film will be one of the first showcased among 30 works from across Canada on what it’s like to navigate the pandemic. (Shannon Scott/CBC)
In a remote camp in the Northwest territories, Melaw Nakehk’o documented her family passing time in isolation while the territory was in lockdown mode due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They fetched wood, listened to the wind and watched the sun move across the sky.

They made fish leather and scraped moose hides.

As of Monday, that experience, captured by the Yellowknife filmmaker, will be one of the first showcased among 30 works from across Canada with perspectives on what it’s like to navigate the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns across the country.

The series of lockdown stories — called The Curve, featuring animation, documentary and digital storytelling formats — is from the National Film Board of Canada, according to a news release.

Nakehk’o with hide, taken in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. (Submitted by Melaw Nakehk’o)

Nakehk’o’s film, K’i Tah Amongst the Birch, was shot between April and May near Fort Simpson, about an hour’s drive out of town on the shores of the Dehcho river.

“That was one of the things that really helped me out I think, during the beginning of the pandemic was being able to leave and go on the land.” Melaw Nakehk'o, filmmaker

When the National Film Board contacted her to see if she would be able to film while she was out at camp, she knew it would be challenging but was excited about capturing their life there.

“Usually when we do go on the land, we can only go for a few days because we all have obligations. This time we were able to go set up camp and just be at camp and get into a really good rhythm.”Melaw Nakehk'o

Both her parents, former N.W.T. premier James Antoine and current deputy mayor of Fort Simpson Celine Antoine, appear in the film.

“It was the perfect time to be able to be in the Dehcho, in our homeland, with my parents, and for an undetermined amount of time.”

Nakehk’o is an activist and Dene/Dënesųłiné artist, originally from Fort Simpson, N.W.T. She made her first Hollywood debut in 2015 when she played the character Powaqa in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Revenant.

She’s also a recognized community leader and helped revive and teach moose hide tanning techniques, work which initiated a resurgence of the practice. As well, Nakehk’o is a founding member of Dene Nahjo.

The start of the rollout of online works starts Monday and will continue through the summer and into the fall. More information can be found on the organization’s website.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: New podcast holds up Canadian Indigenous voices on climate change, CBC News

Finland: Sámi-themed Finnish short film makes Sundance lineup, Yle News

Greenland: `Enough of this postcolonial sh#%’ – An interview with Greenlandic author Niviaq Korneliussen, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson lights up London’s Tate Modern, Blog by Mia bennett

Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russia’s Arctic culture heritage sites get protection, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden, Norway team up to preserve ancient rock carvings, Radio Sweden

United States: Set of Indigenous Yup’ik masks reunited in Alaska after more than a century, CBC News

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