If you have ever lived in Iqaluit, you might want to want to catch Kim Nguyen’s latest feature film, Two Lovers and a Bear.
Like the audience that packed both theatres at the Astro Theatre in Iqaluit Oct. 28 for the film’s Nunavut première, you’ll likely get a kick out of seeing people and places you recognize.
One of the magic-realism film’s major backdrops is Nunavut’s capital, where Nguyen spent six weeks filming in 2015.
And if you haven’t lived in Iqaluit, the film’s Canadian-born and Emmy Award-winning star Tatiana Maslany offered all sorts of reasons to visit the place and see the film.
“It’s one of those places you never get used to how beautiful it is. When you land, one side of the plane is the most gorgeous sunset, and on the other side is a white out,” Maslany told Nunatsiaq News from the premiere’s reception Oct. 28 at the Hotel Arctic.
Two Lovers and a Bear, which had its world première at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is a story about two lovers haunted by their own troubled pasts.
The couple, desperate to escape their nameless northern community, are helped from time to time by a talking polar bear who offers insights and enjoys whisky.
Before the film screened at the Astro Theatre, Maslany tried to say a few words to the audience but was cut short when emotions got the better of her.
“I’ve been crying since I landed basically,” she explained at the reception.
“It was such an amazing experience to be here for those six weeks that we shot. It’s a part of Canada I didn’t know.”
But it’s a part that Maslany said she quickly connected with deeply because the place and people reminded her of her hometown, Regina.
“Something about my experience in Regina, there was an echo of it here. I felt at home, like I was around the people I would’ve been friends with growing up. I loved the community and the people I met.”
The film, even though it’s set in a fictional, nameless Arctic town, does not shy away from some of the most serious troubles that plague Iqaluit and Nunavut.
For example, Maslany’s character, Lucy, is chased by the ghost of her father, who sexually abused her as a child.
“I don’t think the film is seeking to tell the story of what it’s like to live [in Iqaluit]. The place is more of a setting that allows for themes of love and the deep need for connection, the past being ever present—things that we can’t just run away from,” Maslany said.
Although the two main characters are not Inuit, Maslany said there’s significance in using Iqaluit as the backdrop to the film.
“Even just the exposure of what it looks like up here. It’s not this mythical place, but there are people up here who party, go to the Legion, have a great time, watch A Tribe Called Red—it’s got a lot of similarities to what it’s like in the South.”
But the audience at the Iqaluit screening picked up on details and humour that audiences at the film’s other screenings simply missed, Maslany said.
“When we screened at Cannes, people were going, ‘Oh, what an interesting thing, I didn’t know that.’ Whereas here, you’ve lived it, you know these things. This was my favourite screening,” she said.