Nearly two decades after it’s launch, the Grizzlies program is still going strong.
The Grizzlies is an inspiring true story about a group of Inuit students in Kugluktuk, a tiny Arctic hamlet. This northern hamlet is threatened by the legacy of colonialism, which includes extensive drug use, alcohol addiction, domestic violence, and one of the highest teen suicide rates in the world.
When Russ Sheppard, yet another uninformed and unprepared white rookie instructor, arrives from the South on a one-year teaching contract, the kids are understandably wary. Russ introduces his class to lacrosse in an effort to help lift the dangerous fog of trauma that exists in his students.
While first apprehensive, the kids eventually grow to like the sport, join Team Grizzlies, and find the motivation to make changes in their own lives. Together with Russ, the squad rallies support from a divisive community and make it to the National Lacrosse Championships in Toronto.
Despite their final defeat, the Grizzlies learn that success is found in the spirit of community rather than the outcome of a lacrosse game.
Personally, I liked how the students never gave up, even while they were going through a lot of difficulties. They stayed true to their team and kept on motivating each other.
In September 2018, the film had its world debut as part of TIFF’s special presentation.
Inuit people were involved in every phase of The Grizzlies’ production. In this approach, the film could not only depict the Inuit experience but also serve as a teaching ground for Inuit and Indigenous filmmakers interested in producing their own films.
Inuit actors, crew, musicians, and other creative partners were encouraged to join in a paid mentoring programme, and in the end, more than 91 percent of the cast and more than 33 percent of the crew were Inuit or Indigenous.
The majority of the movie was filmed in Nunavut, namely in Niaqunnguut and Iqaluit. Because they had to ship gear and supplies as well as educate locals to complete essential crew duties, this was a big achievement. Filming in the Arctic presents a number of problems, including the necessity to fly in all of the equipment and staff. The lack of food security in the north posed further obstacles, but the filmmakers were committed to filming in the region.
Indigenous Peer Mentors and Intercultural Ambassadors hosted the screening in cooperation with TRU Student Development and TRU Indigenous Education. Support was offered onsite due to the film’s emotional content.