Two Indigenous films — one real and one based on reality — have been nominated for Oscars.
Both are short films from international directors rooted in real life and the contemporary issues facingIndigenous people.
“Ivalu,” an emotional thriller nominated in the short film live action category, tells the story of a young Inuit girl in Greenland who is deeply affected by the disappearance of her sister.
The harrowing film “Haulout,”nominated for best documentary short film, was written, directed and produced by brother-and-sister duo Maxim Abugaeva and Evgenia Arbugaeva, who are described as Russian Inuit. It examines the impact of climate change on walruses in the Russian Arctic.
The Oscar nominations follow what has been described as “one of the strongest years in recent memory” for Native films, with 11 films featured at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January.
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Other Indigenous-led films, some of which premiered in the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, qualified for the Academy Awards but were not nominated. They include “Burros,” “ᎤᏕᏲᏅ: What They’ve Been Taught,” “Long Line of Ladies” and “Hawaiian Soul,”according to IllumiNative.
The Oscar nominees were announced Jan. 24. The awards will be handed out Sunday, March 12, by the Academy Awards of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences during a live show televised on ABC.
Two Indigenous artists have previously won Oscars: Buffy Sainte-Marie, who won for best original music, for"Up Where We Belong," in 1983; and Taika Waititi, for best adapted screenplay, for "JoJo Rabbit," in 2019.
Here are more details about this year's contenders.
“Ivalu,”directed by Anders Walter and Pipaluk K. Jørgensen, puts a harsh spotlight on the abuse some children face in their own homes.
Based on the award-winning Danish graphic novel “Ivalu” by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman,the 16-minute film was recorded entirely in the Greenlandic language, with English subtitles. It is produced by Rebecca Pruzan and Kim Magnusson.
Ivalu is a Greenlandic Inuit feminine name meaning "tendon, thread or sinew" from the Native caribou. It is a popular name given to girls born in Greenland.
It is the first film for Pruzan, an independent producer and former commissioning editor of children’s programming at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.
"I am truly happy for this great recognition of ‘Ivalu,’” Pruzan told National Indigenous Times. “‘Ivalu’ is a super strong and poetic film that sheds light on a very important and sensitive subject. Abuse is the children's problem but the adults' responsibility to do something about it.”
In the astonishing documentary “Haulout,” there is little dialogue, and noon-screen explanation for what is happening or where it is – until the very end.
The film shows a man in an isolated,weather-beaten wood cabin as he smokes, eats from tins, tends to a fire in a small stove,and looks out upon a vast expanse of frozen, barren coastline.
The next day he awakens with 95,000enormous, long-tusked walruses literally at his door, snorting and flailing as they try to enter his cabin. He shoos them away with a stick, avoiding their long tusks.
He is there, we finally learn, to document the 2020 migration of walruses at Cape Heart-Stone in the Chukchi Sea in the Russian Arctic.
“It’s been a beautiful, challenging and often heart-breaking experience to film ‘Haulout." - Eugenia Arbugaeva
The filmmakers stayed with the scientist, Maxim Chakilev, from August to November 2020, as he documented the migration. Sometimes, when the walruses were on land, the filmmakers were literally trapped for days, unable to leave the hut.
In 2020, there were record-high temperatures in the Arctic, leading to a record number of walrus deaths, more than 600.
The film shows Chakilev walking the beach past dozens of dead animals, making verbal notes into a recorder, pausing when he finds a dead mother and a small calf. He thinks the calf is dead until it raises its head. He can do nothing except record that it is alive, but weak,as it shuffles to the sea in search of food.
“It’s been a beautiful, challenging and often heart-breaking experience to film ‘Haulout,’” Eugenia Arbugaeva said in an Instagram post. “We hope it will contribute to the understanding of the climate emergency and its devastating toll on our homeland, the Arctic.”
She added, “So grateful to my co-director, brother and best friend Maxim, the community of Enurmino village in Chukotka, and the spirits who welcomed us on their land. Also to our brave protagonist Maxim Chakilev.”
The film had its world premiere in February 2022 in Berlin.
Maxim Abugaeva was born in the town of Tiksi, in the Russian Arctic, and had been a professional ice hockey player for 15 years before realizing his passion was filmmaking. In 2018, he graduated from the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow.
In his work, Abugaeva looks at the sports world and also his homeland, the Arctic, capturing the remote places and people who inhabit them.
In 2018, he received an award for best cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival for the film, Genesis 2.0,” co-directed by Christian Frei.
Lead Image: This scene is from the short, live-action film, "Ivalu," which tells the story of a Greenland Inuit girl who is shaken by the disappearance of her sister. It is one of two Indigenous films nominated for an Oscar in 2023. Nominated in the best documentary short film category is "Haulout," which was written, directed and produced by brother-and-sister duo Maxim Abugaeva and Evgenia Arbugaeva, who are Russian Inuit. It examines the impact of climate change on walruses in the Russian Arctic. (Photo courtesy of Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences)
This story was originally published on Feb. 10 on ICT, formerly Indian Country Today, a nonprofit news organization that covers the Indigenous world with a daily digital platform and weekday broadcast with international viewership.