People of a Feather

People of a Feather is a documentary that simultaneously explores the lifestyles of the Inuit people living around Hudson Bay, how hydroelectric projects are affecting this part of the world, and the intricate relationships between the ice, the eider duck, and the Inuit people.   Most of the film takes place from the point of view of one Inuit family, who we follow as they spend time together, hunt, prepare their gear, and travel across the ice.  Interspersed with this present day perspective are re-enacted scenes of how the Inuit would have lived about 100 years ago, before contact.  Remarkably these scenes are only slightly quaint, and actually feel quite real. The filmmaker, Joel Heath, is a biologist studying the eider duck and their feeding habits.  The only time we see him is in a small wooden hut, perched at the edge of an ice floe, where he spends his days monitoring the ducks via  above-ground and underwater cameras.  The video that he captures is stunning: the ducks diving deep below the ice to the sea floor to retrieve urchins and mussels from the bottom.  The whole film is one part educational, as we learn about how the Inuit and the ducks survive in such a harsh climate; and one part deeply sad as we watch how the effects of hydroelectric dams are crippling the ability of both the ducks and the people survive.  One of the most emotional parts of the film is the silent video footage of eider ducks slowly dying as the ice closes in around them and they are unable to dive to feed.  Overall a fascinating and beautiful film that should be required viewing for anyone who unequivocally supports large hydroelectric projects.

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2 thoughts on “People of a Feather

  1. Pip says:

    Is the harvest of eider down sustainable? Is it collected without killing the ducks?

  2. The Inuit collect the down from around the eggs in the next and leave enough for the eggs to stay warm. The down is then cleaned and debris is removed; it is then used to make parkas. They of course also hunt the eider duck for food but from what I could tell they did not use the down from the dead ducks. I’m not positive on this though.

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