From wild rabbit roasts, spring green pizza and bannock to moose and morel mushroom risotto, Wild Kitchen, an outdoor cooking show hosted by Inuit artist Tiffany Ayalik and directed by Caroline Cox, brought unique, mouth-watering recipes from remote Northern areas straight to the dinner tables of viewers at home — illustrating the deep connection between food, community, culture and harvesters living on the land.
With Food for the Rest of Us, Cox and Ayalik’s first feature length film — currently in post-production — the Yellowknife residents take a “fresh” and “edgy” look at farming.
“It’s a film about marginalized people farming and harvesting as a form of activism,” said Cox in a recent interview.
“There’s these oppression systems in society and often people of colour, women, people in the LGBTQ+ community, they struggle to be on par with other folks in a monetary system. So when you start to grow your own food, you separate — you remove yourself from that system, It’s very empowering,” said Cox.
With Wild Kitchen now wrapped up — its success stretched south of the border, across 16 states and into some 40 million U.S. television sets — Cox, a filmmaker who has lived in the North for 15 years, is one step closer to finishing the feature length project.
Cox’ pitch, made last week in Ottawa during the Canadian Media Producers Association-hosted “Prime Time Throwdown,” competition won.
Cox and the film will receive more than $20,000 in-kind services to go towards post-production audio and marketing.
It’s the second round of funding Food for the Rest of Us has secured.
In June, Cox and her team of creators were awarded $125,000 from the Talent to Watch Fund. The Telefilm Canada-sponsored fund is established to support filmmakers undertaking their first feature length film.
“That’s why it was so great to win (the second round of funding) because it took some money out of an already small budget. So the funds will be very helpful in helping finish our film,” said Cox.
“That’s why I was so happy,” she said.
Cox said the extra funding will allow her to shift budgeting expenses away from post-production and into other areas, including paying musicians to have their work featured in the film.
Food for the Rest of Us highlights the stories of against-the-grain harvesters and farmers in five international locations: from Tuktoyaktuk to Hawaii.
The film catches up with Ian Campeau, a founder and former member of acclaimed electronic music group A Tribe Called Red. Part of Food for the Rest of Us follows Campeau, now living on a farm outside of Ottawa, Ontario, as he incorporates his Indigenous culture into his farming.
“We shot in Hawaii, at an Indigenous-owned organic farm,” said Cox.
The film then traverses over to Boulder, Col., showcasing the work of a female kosher butcher.
“We also shot in Kansas City, featuring a Black urban grower,” said Cox.
“The genesis for this film came out of working with Wild Kitchen,” said Cox. “Some of the folks in the film we discovered while working on Wild Kitchen.
Jerri Thrasher, a well-known filmmaker from Inuvik, is a producer on the film. Ayalik offered her writing chops for Food for the Rest of Us, and Western Arctic Moving Pictures is a partner in the production.
“I would say, is the first big project we’ve done collectively,” said Cox.
“It’s not hard for me to put a lot of time and energy into developing my craft because I get so much out of it,” said Cox. “When I first started I didn’t have any formal training as a camera operator, I just loved the idea of framing, lighting, texture, depth.”
A few short years later, Cox and Ayalik have their own Northern-based television and film company, Copper Quartz Media Inc.
The idea was borne from the success of Wild Kitchen.
Cox and Ayalik noticed gaps in the corporate structure in the North – and an opportunity to entice southern and international broadcasters to come to the North and co-development television and film projects.
“That’s the main purpose of the company as we move forward.”
In the meantime, Cox is keeping busy.
She’s producing a show for NorthwesTel called Northern Her, a program that profiles six community women across the NWT.
As for Food for the Rest of Us, the release date remains to be determined, but the feature film is set to air on NorthwesTel.