Adine Atatahak and Tabitha Stirrett have broken into the world of short documentaries in a monumental way.

Kugluktuk teens Adine Atatahak and Tabitha Stirrett directed an award-winning mini-documentary on elder Alice “Hitkoak” Ayalik that has close to 70,000 views on Facebook.
photos courtesy of Mark Vonesch

Their film on Kugluktuk elder Alice “Hitkoak” Ayalik won the Best Documentary award at the Tbilisi International Children and Youth Film Festival and it has become an Internet sensation.

The video, titled I am Hitkoak, was uploaded to the Reel Youth Facebook page in mid-July. It has since been viewed close to 70,000 times and shared 1,600 times.

“Wow, that’s crazy,” said Stirrett, who now lives in Ontario. “I’m pretty surprised at how popular it is.”

She and Atatahak spent close to a week with Ayalik during the filming of the video last year. That footage was edited down to six minutes and 25 seconds.

“She taught us how to use a kicker (a boat motor). She taught us how to hunt,” Atatahak, 13, said of the advice Ayalik dispensed to them.

The film opens with Ayalik playing stick games and reflecting on her childhood, when she only had rocks as toys and used her imagination to transform those rocks into different objects like a house and cups.

She speaks of her preference for a traditional diet of caribou meat, fish and seal, and recounts the hard times she and her Inuit ancestors endured.

“When there wasn’t any food available, they would cook their kamiks and kamik soles in order to survive,” she says in Inuinnaqtun with English subtitles translating her words at the bottom of the screen.

Ayalik adds that sharing food and goods was a common and essential practice.

Stirrett, 13, said was fascinated to hear about the way life used to be.

“I liked all the stories she told us. It was really interesting,” she said. “She’s really a nice lady.”

Stirrett and Atatahak said they aspire to pursue filmmaking in the future.

I am Hitkoak and several other mini-documentaries shot in Kugluktuk last year were a collaborative effort between the Hamlet of Kugluktuk’s Moving Forward Together program and Reel Youth, a national organization that promotes visual arts among youth.

“I think it’s such an amazing success for them,” Stephanie Fummerton, of Moving Forward Together, said of Atatahak and Stirrett’s effort. “I really hope that they can feel the success and it can be something they’re proud of themselves for for the rest of their lives.”

The filmmaking initiative is its third year, with previous iterations also involving clay animation or “claymation” films that ran 10 seconds and covered topics affecting the community, said Fummerton. The youth targetted by the program are those who may lack the opportunity to get out on the land regularly and could benefit from making a connection with the elders, Fummerton noted.

“It’s pretty powerful,” she said.

The video can be found at the URL below:

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