The title Twice Colonized applies to Aaju literally, as she was born and raised in Inuit Greenland (a Danish colony), then moved to an Inuit community in Canada where she has lived for decades. The documentary succeeds as both a story of activism and a character study of survival, resilience and keeping strong with your Native self. Aaju is tenacious as she goes through an emotional rollercoaster on two continents, refusing to be colonized, working to create an Indigenous forum at the European Union, all while grieving the death of a son and finding her way out of an abusive relationship. It is, as Dillon Gonzales writes, “a good balance of larger social justice with personal turmoil”.
During Sundance, our Indigenous Editor Leo Koziol sat down with the film’s team to learn more about the genesis of the story, and how the team built trust and connection.
Alethea, I just want to say I’m a big fan of your work.
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril: Thank you.
I’ve never had the opportunity to meet you and talk about Angry Inuk, so this is wonderful. I’m a huge fan of your short film that was made with imagineNATIVE back in the days, Aviliaq. I think, of course, we all know that Aaju was a big part of the Angry Inuk movie. Have things changed since Angry Inuk? It was so controversial at the time.
Alethea: I’ll say yes and no. Yes, in Canada, I think there’s been a huge shift in awareness from non-native Canadians about Inuit living in modern day generally. But also about sealskin and how important it is to our communities that seals are food for us. That all the seals we hunt and use the skin of are also eaten. That’s really changed in Canada.
I do feel a little disappointed at how much the film was able to penetrate in the US and in Europe. It didn’t have the reach that I had hoped it would have there. I mean, the film has done very well critically. It’s won awards all over the world, but in terms of numbers of viewers in the markets that really affect our sealskin market, it didn’t have the impact that I had hoped it would.
But this new film, Twice Colonized, really addresses some of the structural issues that we came up against in that fight. Aaju has continued that work and she’s now attacking the structure and proposing changes to it that, if those changes had already been made, it would’ve made a huge difference when we were doing Angry Inuk. She’s always continued to lobby for Indigenous hunting rights and food security. That’s never stopped.