Overcoming the Trauma and Hate: Documentary Sheds Light on Inuit LGBT Communities

There is a lot to be said about the resiliency of minority groups.

Simply existing can almost be seen as a political statement. It can also feel conflicting and alienating for individuals who may belong to multiple minority groups. Despite that alienation how, there are a lot of people who can relate to this experience.

Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things is a documentary film that explores this topic by shining a light on the lives and experiences of Inuit LGBT people who live in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

The film was presented as part of Never Apart’s ongoing LGBT Film Series. Never Apart is a small non-profit organization that’s dedicated to supporting the arts and advocating for social and environmental equality.

The documentary film by Mark Kenneth Woods and Michael Yerxa, released in 2016, was filmed over a four day period on location in Iqaluit.

During the early stages of the film in 2015, Woods and Yerxa considered Iqaluit’s first ever pride festival, but plans changed as the two started to uncover the story of Iqaluit’s LGBT community.

Both Woods and Yerxa are members of the LGBT community. However, neither of them are Indigenous. They spent a lot of time researching the colonization of Canada’s Inuit population before going to Iqaluit to shoot the documentary.

Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things has already been shown at film festivals on nearly every continent. It won the award for Best Documentary at the Fargo Moorehead LGBT Film Festival and Best Two-Spirited Film-Audience Choice Award at the Queer North Film Festival. Future screenings are taking place at the New Brunswick Museum in St. John (Maliseet land), the British Film institute in London, and the Glitch Film Festival in Scotland.

The movie opens up with a brief lesson in history given by a few Inuit inhabitants of the territory. They describe the oppressive colonialism that took place on their land. Generational trauma, oppression and abuse caused by colonization are still very present in this community, as well as in other Indigenous communities, the film explains.

As the documentary progresses, the audience learns about the history of the LGBT community in Iqaluit and the struggles they have faced as a result of the homophobia instilled by Christian churches.

While still healing from trauma and the illusions that the church impressed on the community, it’s understood that circumstances have improved. In learning and re-connecting with their culture, Inuit people begin breaking down these notions, ultimately becoming more understanding and accepting of LGBTQ individuals in their communities.

One of the people spotlighted in the film is Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, an award winning Inuk filmmaker and activist. She is a very prominent straight ally and has included Inuit LGBT characters in her past films. Another prominent voice in the film was Jack Anawak, a former politician who is considered to be an Elder by some community members.

Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things is an important documentary about the resiliency that Inuit communities and LGBT Inuit communities share. By allowing the voices of Indigenous folks to guide the story, it’s clear that Woods and Yerxa were careful and respectful in their direction.

They have donated copies of the documentary to several libraries and schools in Nunavut. Woods and Yerxa are currently in the very early stages on working on a new project.

Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things puts people and stories that are often ignored in Canadian media and filmmaking at the forefront, highlighting the complexity that comes with belonging to two minority groups. Both Inuit people and LGBT people have faced a lot of hardships over the years, but together, they remain resilient.

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