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Young Arviat filmmakers selected for Quebec film festival

This is an exciting week for members of the Arviat Film Society.

In February of 2016, Gord Billard accompanied two youth society members, Jamie Okatsiak and Samuel Pauppa, on a trip to Quebec City. The two young men were making a documentary comparing the struggles of youth in Quebec City to those of youth in the North, with the focus being the community of Arviat.

Jamie Okatsiak, left, and Samuel Pauppa of the Arviat Film Society give the professional gear at Productions 4 éléments in Quebec City a try in February of 2016. photo courtesy of Gord Billard

Though Billard said he only stayed in Quebec City with the two for a week before having to return to Arviat, they remained in Quebec for an additional week to complete work on the documentary with Productions 4 éléments.

He said the project, Makkuktut (Youth), was greatly helped along by the efforts of Vincent l'Hérault of ArctiConnexion.

“I don't know who submitted the documentary to the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival, but I suppose it was one of those two companies who aided the boys with its production,” said Billard.

“It was accepted for screening and it was shown at 5 p.m. this past Saturday evening, Nov. 25.

“It was a chore getting the boys down there due to the weather we had in the region this past week, but they eventually made it.”

Billard said it's the first time any video produced by the Arviat Film Society has received this level of recognition and also the first time a society production has been included in a film festival's lineup.

“We've won awards in the past for our bullying videos and for our safety videos with Worker's Compensation, and to get all that recognition was great, but this is big,” he said.

“A lot of people are going to see this documentary and it's always interesting to see how your work fares in something as big as a film festival.”

Billard said it's cool to think of how many people got to see the documentary and gain an understanding of what life is like in the North for youth, from their own perspective. He said both Okatsiak and Pauppa are pleased and excited about Makkuktut screening at the festival.

“They're still involved with the Arviat Film Society, but they're adults now with jobs and serious responsibilities,” he said.

“Jamie (Okatsiak) is engaged to be married and Sam (Pauppa) is working at Meadowbank down in Baker Lake, so they're a lot busier now than they used to be when they were working so much with the society.

“But this will certainly provide motivation for them to keep working on film and looking for stories to do. I'm hoping they came back from Winnipeg filled with all kinds of ideas for new videos ….”

Billard said seeing Okatsiak and Pauppa have their work recognized means a great deal to him personally.

“It's something I'm certainly proud to have been a part of … It's right up there with Jordan Konek, who was a student of mine and who I often reference as one of my success stories whenever I talk about my work in the North,” he said.

“That's actually one of the ways I measure whether or not I'm doing a good job, in how successful the students are, and, when you see former students winning scholarships, winning prizes for their videos and obtaining high-profile jobs it validates what you do.

“And it tells me that I, and the people who I work with, are doing something right because these students are experiencing significant and remarkable success.”