Arctic and Earth Day

Naturalist E.O. Wilson was the author of Half-Earth and creator of the Half-Earth Project. He once sat with me and my artist friend Josie and a film crew one afternoon for five hours, in which he spoke eloquently on the need that humans have for other creatures. He suggested to us, as he had to many others, that we call the time in which we are living the Eremocine—the Age of Loneliness.

From the Compass Light production BIG PICTURE EARTH (Cameraman: David Wright)

Earth Day grew out of the United States. My experience of this designated day includes an awareness of a degraded planet. But the experience has also included celebration and comfort. A lot of that joy comes from the sheer scale of the location. Earth. It is big. So big that it offers an inherent promise of freedom, a refuge from any particular confinement of the day (perhaps even for a person quarantined in Shanghai -or hunkered down in a bombed-out Mariupol). This hopeful day sets a large scale of reference -a planetary scale- and a frame of mind. All are necessary, I believe, for successful participation in our current and future challenges. We cannot use the word Earth enough (that is one of the reasons our team’s work at Compass Light is often titled accordingly: SUNRISE EARTH, BIG PICTURE EARTH, BEHOLD THE EARTH, REELEARTH). 

The s/v ArcticEarth departs for southern Greenland in mid-May. The New Arctic we will be moving through is a dynamic ocean and ice ecosystem, of great interest to the naturalists and scientists in our world -like the wonderful Ed Wilson who passed away last year. The New Arctic is also of interest to students of human culture, since this region has been inhabited by people for thousands of years, and that culture continues to adapt amidst globalization. How does the cultural Arctic fit with the cultural Earth? That connection is as much a part of our ArcticEarth endeavor as are the climate and biological connections between Arctic and Earth.

What are a few of the cultural elements in the New Arctic of Greenland?

  1. City life and the built environment, amidst traditional rural stories bound to fish and animals.
  2. Joyful familial human connections, and the fearful losses of such.
  3. Extractive industries and unintended traumatic consequences, be they from mining, toxins released from melting ice, black carbon from New Arctic ship traffic, or the pervasive plastic that reaches all corners of this round earth. Occasional apocalyptic visions.
  4. Self-rule by Greenlanders. 

Who makes up the rising generation of Greenlanders? 

A main street in the city of Nuuk, Greenland

Pass the Mic

The 26-year-old award winning Inuk filmmaker Marc Fussing Rosbach was born in Ilulissat, then moved to Nuuk. He and his co-writer partner Paninnguaq Lind Jensen draw upon traditional stories and characters to make sci-fi horror films in Greenland’s fast-growing independent film community. I learned of Marc’s work through an enthusiastic tweet from Sara Olsvig, Chair of the Human Rights Council of Greenland, and former leader of the Inuit Ataqatigiit political party. In our conversation below, Marc talks about his new short film IMAJUIK, released in February by his film company Furos Image. I love this film!  

My recent Zoom call with Marc Fussing Rosbach (Marc at left). Compass Light is hoping to work with Marc's Furos Image in some way this summer.

A monstrous creature shows up in your new film. Tell us about that.  Well, the creature is a Qivittoq -from our traditional horror stories- way back from the old days. It’s a person who has left society. They go out to nature and they get supernatural abilities. It’s almost more like a monster than a person. A monster-like person. An evil creature. It’s usually when for example, a man was rejected by a woman who he really loves… or if something happened that was very traumatic.

Are those the carved creatures that are part human, part animal? No, those are Tupilak. Those are helpers for good usually.

How did this idea come about to do this film? I mean, tell us about that. I always wanted to film a more apocalyptic version of our towns or cities. And so I got the idea when I was working with the International Sami Film Institute, I worked with them making a trailer for Arctic Chills. They asked if I could make a short film about a favorite creature. I wrote story in two days, I think. Because I always had those ideas since I started filmmaking. It’s a bunch of ideas I have collected throughout the years. But also, my partner Paninnguaq Lind Jensen is the co-writer for this story. She knows more about our traditional stories than I do. We’ve been together for almost six years and met when I was writing a story for my first feature film, and wanted facial tattoos included in my film. She was practicing our traditional tattoo. So I contacted her to be a part of part of brainstorming our traditional tattoos.

This is the film trailer for IMAJUIK, Marc’s recently released film.  IMAJUIK can also be purchased On Demand through VIMEO.

Tell us about the main character Imajuik who is the mom and then who is left alone, all by herself in the city. Ulla Fleischer.  She’s a well-known actress here in Greenland, a very talented actress and previously has acted in feature horror films. Ulle worked with an ensemble of teenage characters, and she also starred in my friend’s drama film.

So tell us about that part of the story where she is sitting up on the building with her bow and arrow on her back, looking out to sea, and she picks up to some sort of smartphone device. Yeah, it’s more of a futuristic smartphone. I guess it can connect to boat radios or other kinds of communication devices, and then it can scan the area for life or so it’s a device to or for and practice and just to see if there’s any danger in this area.

And so you decided that the person who would respond would be on a boat. Why did you choose that? I chose that because I wanted the main character to be alone in that city. Who else could she be contacting?  Someone from outside the city, on a boat. I think that’s mostly, mostly the reason. I wanted her to be alone in the city.

Tell us about your decision to locate the story in the city …as opposed to outside the city. Most of Greenland is not populated. Why did you choose a city? For me, the empty city is scarier than an empty landscape. Because of that eerie feeling you get when you see an empty road or building. We tend to feel un-nerved when we see the empty building because it’s designed by humans. We have the feeling when we see a building that it’s not natural but when we see the mountains and the landscape, we feel very peaceful. it’s one of the privileges of living in Greenland.  We’re so close to nature. Also, if we want to shoot outside the city, it would be more expensive!

Okay. Tell us about the uranium part of the narrative. All this takes place in the future. 2060. Yes. We wrote the story during the time when there was going to be an open pit mine in the south and part of Greenland. That’s also my partner Paninnguaq’s hometown. She made a documentary film called White Paper about the uranium mine, mostly about the sheep farmers around Narsaq, and how they will be affected by the uranium mine. We wanted to include radioactivity to explain why there is no people. At first, we also wanted to have a radioactive creature so that the character’s device would detect the radioactivity.

Of all the things you could have decided to make a horror film about here in Greenland, why did you choose an empty city?  I’m mostly scared of extreme loneliness. There’s a flashback where we see the character’s past before going through the traumatic radioactive event in which the main character Imajuik loses her loved ones. I think that’s scarier for me to lose my loved ones and then just live here alone.

Well, I won’t give away the ending of how she deals with the Qivittoq …. But I certainly will encourage others to keep an eye out for this film!  Tell us about the film scene in Nuuk and Greenland. It’s very young, still very young film community, but it’s very passionate and strong, with lots of talented filmmakers.  It is still a small community, but we are doing a lot. More and more, We are telling our own stories. We are starting to work with bigger productions and to make bigger films ourselves. I think it’s going strong.

So back to the future.  I am curious to learn more about your feelings about the future. Much of the planet right now is fearful about the future because of the changing climate. Can you share your feelings about that? We talk about it a lot. Because we are very much impacted by climate change here. The big glacier in Greenland is melting so fast. The hunters and fishermen are more impacted. There’s always something changing. It is getting faster and faster. When it gets cold or when it’s winter, very humid. I think it’s changing a lot.

Marc, do you see a connection between your future filmmaking and climate change in any way? I might work with that topic in the future, but a changing climate is not my area of expertise. I will be making more movies about our stories. Mostly about those stories.

Do you have any ideas that involve the oceans at all?  I do. We have a lot of creatures from the ocean, old stories from the ocean.

I can’t wait to see!

I saw these Tupilaks (part human, part non-human animal) five years ago at an exhibit in Nuuk.

Discoveries & Arrivals

A compendium of mythical creatures, spirits, and strange beings of Greenland (Wool of Bat).  Edited by Maria Bach Kreutzmann.

‘You can’t live in a museum’: the battle for Greenland’s uranium – Men are working hard to find the mineral riches buried in Greenland’s mountains.

In this short sci-fi horror Imajuik is the only person left in Nuuk – A film by Furos Image. It’s 2060 and the once so busy capital has been deserted due to a uranium mine explosion nearby. Suddenly Imajuik’s device detects one life form – but is that a good thing?