Inuk film-maker Nyla Innuksuk showcased her new movie Slash/Back, set in Pangnirtung, at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, United States on March 13, where it had its world premiere.
The movie is about a group of teenage friends who save their northern hamlet from an alien invasion using their horror movie knowledge and know-how. It is aimed at younger audiences.
“This is the first thing I ever really directed, it’s my first feature film,” Innuksuk, the director and co-writer (alongside Ryan Cavan) of Slash/Back.
“It was a crazy first movie to try and make,” she adds.
”Working with teenage actors and young people, we had lots of practical and visual effects that happened. It’s also an action-horror movie so there were a lot of things that were fun and challenging.”
Innuksuk has roots in Iglulik and Iqaluit and currently lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Filming took place in Pangnirtung over the summer of 2019, starting in late June, with the cast living at Attagoyuk School over the course of shooting. Initial filming took eight weeks with some additional filming and production work being done in Oct. 2020.
The decision to film in the community instead of Iqaluit where it would be easier was influenced by Innuksuk’s experience seeing other movies in the Nunavut capital.
“I think it’s pretty clear people will know it’s Iqaluit,” she said, “I thought it would be cooler if it was in a more remote community.”
She also wanted to make a kids movie for her young nephews who also live in Pangnirtung.
“In a lot of ways I was making it for them. I thought it would be really cool for them to watch a movie that fun and exciting with aliens and monsters that was shot in their hometown.”
It was also quite the positive experience for the main cast themselves, consisting of teenage girls who were cast from Iqaluit and Pangnirtung. It stars Tasiana Shirley as Maika, Alexis Wolfe as Jesse, Nalajoss Ellsworth as Uki and Chelsea Prusky as Leena.
“It felt like me and the cast were learning so much everyday,” said Innuksuk, on filming.
While being in the movie business can be difficult, it is something Innuksuk has a passion for.
“It is really hard making a living doing this stuff, trying to make things. But in the end it is what I really loved, and when it came to start making Slash/Back it started with just a little proof of concept.
“It started out with me, a group of teenagers and some friends from college. Seeing those same teenagers in Texas in front of an audience talking about the movie and being proud of the work they did is kind of great,” she adds.
Innuksuk said she saw these girls become proud of their Inukness over the course of the movie making process.
“It was really important to me that we use prideful language when it comes to our indigeneity and Inukness,” she said.
The director and the cast were able to attend the South by Southwest premiere together, which was the highlight of her trip, saying “I think it was a really great experience for them to be representing the movie.”
Prusky, who plays Leena, initially took questions from the audience while in Texas in Inuktitut, having it translated.
The Canadian distributor of Slash/Back is Mongrel Media. Innuksuk said they plan to host special screenings in Iqaluit and Pangnirtung. No specific dates for those premieres have been planned.
“We want to bring it to Nunavut and share it with an audience and I think that’s going to feel even better.”
The Nunavut premieres will be followed by a theatrical release in various theatres across Canada, and depending on its success, other platforms as well.