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Ce qu’il faut pour vivre (The Necessities of Life)

June 30, 2009

Above: Natar Ungalaaq plays Tivi in a retelling of the history of the tuberculosis outbreak in Arctic Canada. Thanks to a long-term relationship between the Center and the Seattle International Film Festival, hundreds of Seattle residents are introduced to vital Canadian histories annually.

The Center has worked closely with the Seattle International Film Festival for the last decade supporting the Festival’s stellar lineup of Canadian and Québécois films. This year over 300 films and shorts were screened over 25 days at the largest film festival in the US. Over 20 of the films were made in Canada, including The Necessities of Life, sponsored by the Center.

Benoît Pilon, director of Necessities, was runner-up at this year’s Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. The film tells the story of a critical period in Canadian history – the tuberculosis epidemic in the 1950s and 60s in the Arctic and its impact on the Inuit and their communities. During this time thousands of Canadians were isolated from their families in sanatoriums, sometimes for years. The Inuit suffered additional losses after being taken thousands of miles from their homes and oftentimes not returning. The lead actor is Natar Ungalaaq who is well-known for his role in Atanarquat (The Fast Runner).

The Seattle International Film Festival promotes films that foster cross-cultural communication and international understanding. Certainly, Seattle residents have benefited from hundreds of Canadian films over the years that have highlighted important cultural and historic distinctions.

The Festival was founded in 1976 by Canadian Darryl MacDonald and Dan Ireland. Since that time it has grown into one of the leading independent film institutions in the world. Today, Nancy Kennedy, also a Canadian, serves as the director, which no doubt explains the strong presence of Canadian films and directors at the Festival.

This project was supported, in part, by funding from the Center’s Title VI grant, US Department of Education, Office of International Education and Graduate Program Services.