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Review: “People of a Feather” DVD

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When most people think of arctic animals, the Eider Duck is probably doesn’t come to mind as readily as charismatic animals such as polar bears and narwhals. But the Inuit people of the Belcher Islands – also known as Sanikiluaq – located in the middle of Hudson’s Bay, owe their survival to the ducks’ meat and feathers, which are the warmest in the world. The film jumps back and forth between the wildlife and natural beauty of the island, and the lives of its human inhabitants. It includes scenes of both contemporary life as well as historic re-enactments of what life would have been like for Inuit people before the encroachment of outsiders less than a century ago. Filmmaker and biologist Joel Heath spent seven winters in the arctic researching the declining Eider Duck population. With help from Inuit hunters and elders, he documented changes in ice and water currents mainly caused by the Winter release of water from massive hydroelectric dams nearby in northern Quebec. The film offers a unique and creative look at how a local ecosystem is connected to global ocean currents and the earth’s hydrological cycle.

The film is often slow and contemplative, so it may not be feasible to show the feature film in its entirety to students; the shorter version included on the DVD may be a better option. Overall, the film has lots to offer both middle and high school classes, as well as those interested in teaching about aboriginal culture. As a bonus, lesson plans and class activities are also available to accompany the film.

Reviewed by Brandon Quigley

Sanikiluaq Running Pictures, 2012, 52/90 minute DVD, available for $89/$295 from the Video Project, 1-800-475-2638, www.videoproject.com and www.peopleofafeather.com.

From Green Teacher 99, Spring 2013.

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