Canada’s New Governor General, Mary Simon

Canada’s New Governor General, Mary Simon

Congratulations to Mary Simon, on becoming the new Governor General of Canada. She is the first Inuk to fill this position, and as a woman who passed through the residential school system, as a leader with such knowledge of the Aboriginal and Circumpolar worlds, and of Canada itself, she brings dignity and wisdom to this position.

Several years ago, I showed a mid-length draft of my film The Blinding Sea to an invited audience in Montreal. I treated this as a focus group, to gain insights into what was needed to complete the film. I remembered having interviewed Mary Simon several years before that, on the subject of the arbitrary deportations of Inuit communities from one place to another, so I asked her to review the film on DVD, then come to Montreal to present it to the audience. She graciously accepted. I also invited Inuit throat-singers Nina Segalowitz and Taqralik Patridge to sing for us. They did two amazing sets of about 20 minutes each, before and after the screening.

This was the first Inuit feedback on my film. I was actually electrified by what Mary said. I realized this was a turning-point in the creative process. I ended up withdrawing the film from distribution and then completely remaking it along the lines she suggested, as a feature film (which I completed July 1st 2020).

Here is what Mary Simon said on that occasion.

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Mary Simon, former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and former Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs (from her presentation of the film in Montreal):

“Thank you, George Tombs, for inviting me to be part of this screening 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.”

Mary Simon, George Tombs and Marie Frenette at a showing of The Blinding Sea in Montreal: both photographs in this blog are by Jacques Frenette

At the Toronto Film and Script Awards

July 28, 2021

21st Award

July 28, 2021

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