Mary Simon, former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and former Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs (from her presentation at the private screening of the film in Montreal):
“Thank you, George Tombs, for inviting me to be part of the première of The Blinding Sea.
“My interest in this film, and the reason why I am pleased to be here and offer comments, is because through this film and your work, George, you have documented some vital elements in Inuit history and our relationship with some of the early explorers, especially Roald Amundsen, clearly the most successful Arctic and Antarctic explorer.
“Not only was he the first person to navigate the Northwest Passage, but also the first to reach the South Pole.
“This film is important. The Blinding Sea credits Inuit with much of Amundsen’s success.
“It documents his early preparations for lengthy and dangerous Arctic exploration by learning lessons from other explorers and accepting their advice and observations – that those who worked with the Inuit, who befriended them, who earned their trust and sought and followed their guidance and direction – survived.
“And he also learned and accepted that those who ignored the Inuit often perished….
“For the past several years, I have been committed to creating a National Inuit Educational Strategy.
“Our history, our culture and our language must be key elements in the education system that we shape for our children.
“So, George, I congratulate you on your work and your commitment.
“I know in the film business the word focus is often used, and the importance of keeping focus on the subject, and you did that very well with Roald Amundsen.
“But in so doing, you have also shone a light on Inuit – and as much, much more than a supporting cast. I believe you have also opened up some concrete ideas and approaches to further developing, and educating all of us.
“I know everyone will enjoy The Blinding Sea, and I believe we will all come away with a far better view of not only what happened in the past – but what is possible in the future.”
Peter Agre, M.D., Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (2003), Director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute and Arctic canoeist: “The Blinding Sea, a film by George Tombs, is no ordinary adventure story about polar exploration. True, George risked life and limb filming in all weather in Antarctica, on a sailing ship tossed around on the Southern Ocean, dog-sledding in Alaska and the Yukon, wintering on an icebreaker on the Beaufort Sea and finally braving wind chill of -56° Celsius, in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, when his camera – and most of his hands – promptly froze! But the film is actually a beautiful and compelling story about Roald Amundsen, the great Norwegian explorer, who discovered the Northwest Passage and conquered the South Pole. I was also struck in this film by the gorgeous Inuit throat singing of Janet Aglukkaq and Kathy Keknek of Gjoa Haven, and the haunting siren-call of Marie Frenette, a singer-songwriter of Montreal.
“I have devoted much of my professional career to aquaporins – membrane water channels that control the water contents of cells, and I expect rigor in any publication – or film. I have also crisscrossed much of the Canadian Arctic and sub-Arctic by canoe. As a Norwegian-American, I grew up hearing about Amundsen and his mentor and fellow Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen. Having become familiar with some of George’s previous work on CBC Radio and National Public Radio, I would say that while bringing to this film an appreciation for Amundsen’s courage, humility and simplicity, George also demonstrates his own love of Nature and his rigorous attention to historical and scientific detail, without losing the viewer’s interest. But above all, through interviews with key people involved in the story, The Blinding Sea reveals the great respect Amundsen had for the aboriginal Inuit of northern Canada, for the Iñupiat (or Eskimos) of the Alaska North Slope, and also for the Chukchi of northeastern Siberia. In exploring the relationships he developed with them, this film focuses on the sharing of knowledge across cultures, and on human dignity, and I strongly recommend it.”
Damien Iquallaq: “No wonder George Tombs called his doc The Blinding Sea. I am in this film along with my late uncle Bob Konana and my uncle Paul Ikuallaq. Good to see my uncles on the film, Bob and Paul, talking about Inuit oral history while Paul translated for Konana. George has taken Inuit oral history and introduced it to the rest of the world in this film, and it will be recorded for generations to come. Thank you, George Tombs. This was an amazing accomplishment for Canadian and Inuit cultural history.”
Ken McGoogan, whose books include Fatal Passage and Lady Franklin’s Revenge: “What a wonderful introduction to Roald Amundsen, arguably the most accomplished polar explorer of all-time. Film-maker George Tombs does the requisite legwork and takes us into Amundsen country with him — not just to Oslo, but sailing into the ice in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Tombs does justice to the Inuit, and introduces us to members of Amundsen’s extended family both in Uranienborg and Gjoa Haven. This film is a keeper.”
Jean Gaumy, a Magnum photographer for nearly 40 years : “This well-directed film bears the imprint of the English-language documentary tradition. Its very effective and tight editing blends well with George’s narrative voice.”
Russell Potter, Professor of English at Rhode Island College and an authority on Arctic exploration who worked on an ITN Factual documentary about the Northwest Passage: “The best contemporary documentary about Amundsen’s remarkable career I know.”
Doug Gibson, one of Canada’s finest publishers and an accomplished author in his own right: “Many people know George’s work as author and journalist. This film reveals he is also an intrepid adventurer, banging around on the stormiest and coldest oceans – at the very ends of the earth. He did something like 95% of the cinematography himself, and composed and performed the stirring piano score. In this film, he has come across a great Canadian story, with many poignant human dimensions. I hope it finds the widest market possible.”
David Massell, Professor of History at the University of Vermont, and author of two books on the political history of hydro-electricity in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region: “Shot on location at the Earth’s two poles, The Blinding Sea offers a rich collage of sounds and images, merging past and present, Inuit and European perspectives, to explore the intercultural experience and legacy of Roald Amundsen. This film, produced and directed by artist-historian George Tombs, raises important questions about the value and valuing of Inuit knowledge among Western explorers.”
Kira Van Deusen, Storyteller, independent researcher, and author of Kiviuq — an Inuit Hero and His Siberian Cousins: “As a child Roald Amundsen yearned to go where no one had gone before. But his search for the Northwest Passage showed him that others had been there long before his time. Amundsen made good use of skills and mapping that the Inuit generously shared with him. These saved his life and contributed to his success. He followed patterns of Inuit epic heroes, with his keen observation, perseverance, and kindness to orphans.
“Amundsen is well-known as one of the leading personalities of the great age of exploration. The Blinding Sea shows us a less-known side of Amundsen – the positive, enduring relationships he developed with Inuit and other aboriginal people in the Yukon, Alaska and Siberia. The film also shows us that new adventures await today’s young people as the North deals with global warming — and that the Inuit are still the best teachers.
“The Blinding Sea is a fascinating film greatly enhanced by magnificent landscapes, old maps and photos, engaging narration, insightful interviews with people directly connected to the Amundsen story, and music that evokes the North through Inuit throat singing combined with western instruments and vocal techniques.
“I highly recommend this film.”
Ken Jezek, Professor Emeritus at the Byrd Polar Research Center, School of Earth Sciences of The Ohio State University – from 1997-2007 he led the Radarasat Antarctic Mapping Project and presently is a co-leader of the International Polar Year GIIPSY project which involves the participation of twelve space agencies: “George Tombs’ documentary, The Blinding Sea, is a scholarly and entertaining review of the life of Roald Amundsen and his important achievements in Arctic and Antarctic exploration. The documentary nicely contrasts images of Amundsen and his times with views of the modern polar environment and the challenges of polar research during the different eras. Amundsen’s humanity is uniquely portrayed by a number of interviews with his descendants. The documentary is a fine addition to polar history and I recommend it for general and academic audiences.”