________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008


My Father, My Teacher.

Dennis Allen (Director & Writer). Ken Malenstyn (Co-director & BRB Father Productions Inc. Producer). Selwyn Jacob (NFB Producer). Rina Fraticelli (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2005.
52 min., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: C9105 172.

Subject Headings:
Inuvialuit-Ethnic identity.
Inuvialuit-Social life and customs.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Gina Varty.

**** / 4

The blues guitar riff at the beginning of this film sets the tone for what is to follow: the story of a prodigal son's return to his culture, his community and his father. Filmmaker Dennis Allen has created a documentary filled with grace and hope. As one who was lost and "blinded" for years by addictions to drugs and alcohol taken to kill the pain of low self-esteem, Allen is led home. It is through this re-connecting that an epiphany occurs:

"If I know where I come from, at least I know where I'm going." (From liner notes)

     Home is the scenic Baby Island and the Mackenzie Delta in Canada's Western Arctic. It is here through a series of honest conversations and stories that Dennis begins to understand and respect his father, Victor. He also begins to restore broken links to his culture and community as father and son carry on the deeply rooted Inuvialuit tradition of the whale hunt.

     As their relationship evolves, they listen to each other. And the son no longer tunes-out the father's stories as he recognizes the wisdom and history they contain. Victor, a 77-year-old elder, talks about his grandfather, growing up in the Arctic, and the dramatic changes he has seen in his lifetime. His stories relate to the importance of a simple lifestyle and re-connecting with the land, the creation of Inuvik, time spent at a residential school, hunting, and keeping up with the changing times.

     "Once upon a time," Victor says, "we learned by doing. The pattern I grew up in was families being strong together, not criticizing each other." His grandfather's wisdom was to "let the ones who had never done it before learn …. the younger people have to learn".

     This film is a means to continue this legacy. My Father, My Teacher is a testament to the importance of family, tradition, and living in harmony with the land: sage advice for First Nations students, the marginalized, the lost, and anyone with a longing to return home.

Highly Recommended.

Gina Varty is a librarian, currently providing library services at Inglewood Elementary School in Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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