When Jerri Thrasher and Tamara Voudrach started screening their short film The Last Walk, they were just excited to show off their work.
“We weren’t thinking about winning anything,” said Thrasher, who was a writer and director on the project.
But between several film festivals in Canada, Germany and beyond, the film has earned a number of awards, including audience choice and best short film.
The project began in 2015 when the International Sami Film Institute and Nunavut Film Development Corporation partnered to create an alliance of filmmakers along the circumpolar North. Voudrach and Thrasher took part in a three-day writing workshop in Toronto, creating what would later become the script for The Last Walk.
Each of the five regions involved – Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Sami Region of Norway, Greenland, and Alaska – were to create 15-minute short films from the scripts adapted to their own cultures, with all five together combining to the length of a feature film.
Three have been made so far, with Thrasher and Voudrach leading the NWT version.
They shot the film over the course of one week in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk last fall.
“It came out beautifully,” said Voudrach, who was a writer, assistant director and producer on the project. “We tried to keep everything really local.”
The film compares and contrasts two sisters, one who’s more rooted in her traditions and the other moving south for school and getting into trouble.
“We all wanted to focus on the theme of walking in two worlds,” said Thrasher. “We’re thinking about how our young people may or may not be adapting well trying to keep their traditional roots but also being part of the modern world, and vice versa.”
A few changes had to be made during the shooting of the film, but Voudrach is happy with how it came out in the end.
“No matter what happens, no production is ever going to be perfect,” she said. “Maybe a location falls through, maybe you need to accommodate something for one of the actors, maybe there’s a problem with the hotel. Anything could happen.”
The film was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival’s European Film Market, where it was screened with other Indigenous-made films as part of the BerlinaleNATIVE program.
The pair are looking to screen it in Inuvik soon and Tuktoyaktuk and Paulatuk in the new year.
Thrasher hopes to use this film and future work to raise awareness about issues young people face.
“There are so many wonderful things up here – it’s beautiful, our culture’s beautiful, our hometowns have good morals – but in every region that you go to there are issues that plague young people,” said Thrasher, adding that she wants to start a conversation about balancing being a person in the modern world while carrying on traditional values.
“I really feel we have a responsibility, especially as Indigenous women in film, and part of that responsibility is to look at how people are coping, and how to use this art form to find a solution or social call to action.”