When one of the organizers of the first National Symposium on Rural and Remote Homelessness was looking for content to include, he came across Inuk documentarian Mosha Folger’s Iglu: Angirraq (House-Home).
“I was lead content coordinator and I really wanted to ensure that Northern and Inuit voices were heard at the symposium,” said John Kmech, program manager for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy at the Alberta Rural Development Network.
“He thought featuring it at a symposium like this was perfect. Aside from having a documentary adding to our content about Inuit and Northern housing and homelessness, it adds to the diversity of content. For instance, we have panel discussions, we have workshops, we have a lot of presentations. But this is actually the only documentary we’re screening at the symposium.”
Iglu: Angirraq was scheduled to screen at the symposium in Canmore, Alta., Oct 24 to 26, with Folger set to Skype for a question-and-answer session with the audience.
Folger, originally from Apex and now living in Ottawa, has made several documentaries, but he’s also a poet and a hip-hop artist. Homelessness and Nunavut’s housing crisis are always on his mind. Iglu, a 45-minute take on the issues, was filmed in Iqaluit.
“It’s about the crisis in Iqaluit. I mean, amongst Inuit, but I’m from Iqaluit and the majority of the people (in the documentary) are from Iqaluit,” said Folger.
“Homelessness amongst Inuit is something I’ve been creating art about – poetry and hip-hop songs, and now this documentary. It’s something close to my heart. My family is in the film, my little sister’s mother (Annie Iola). She was homeless on the street here in Ottawa. I interviewed her. She moved back up, and lived with my sister in Iqaluit. The story kind of hinges on her story.”
Folger explains Iola was born in 1960 and experienced all sorts of homelessness, lack of housing and overcrowding in Iqaluit.
“That’s the personal part. Then we interviewed Madeleine Redfern, Dennis Patterson, Joanasie Akumalik, The Trade-Offs … and we got everybody’s perspective on the issue, because it affects everybody up there. You can’t turn right or left without running into somebody who has somebody in their house or somebody who is couch surfing,” said Folger, also mentioning his friend Brian Tagalik, “who I’ve known for almost 20 years now. Him and his family in front of the legislature. It’s just an issue that affects everybody.”
Folger wanted to get beyond the statistics and numbers too-often quoted by politicians and the press.
“It’s not so much that it’s not a known issue, it’s that there seems to have been a disconnect where there’s no stories. When you hear politicians talk about it, it’s a very statistics-based conversation, it’s all numbers. And it can never be as accurate as it really is because in the North it’s not just how many people are in a shelter, or how many people go to a soup kitchen,” he said.
“There’s just so many different aspects to it … What I wanted to do is, number one, put a face on the issue. My little sister’s mom is a good story-teller. She has a compelling story. But, also, to illuminate a little bit the different aspects of the problem, how it affects families and family dynamics.”
He says even people who deal directly with the issue don’t know about a lot of the things that contribute to what’s going on and why.
“The historical kind of things that contribute to the housing crisis.”
And, as executive director of the Alberta Rural Development Network states: “Homelessness and a lack of affordable housing is a significant issue in rural and remote communities. It may even be more severe than in cities, but it often receives much less attention and fewer resources. However, urban, rural, and Indigenous communities are intimately connected in this country, so we must address these issues everywhere to make progress anywhere.”
Folger completed his documentary late this summer, though an early cut of the film was shown at Iqaluit’s Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre in June.
Iglu: Angirraq screened at the Nuuk International Film Festival in Nuuk, Greenland, in September, and at the imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival in Toronto, Ont., in mid-October. It will continue the festival circuit, including in Australia in November, and will hopefully be distributed more widely in the future.