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film review
  • Twice Colonized
  • Directed by Lin Alluna
  • Written by Lin Alluna and Aaju Peter
  • Classification N/A; 91 minutes
  • Opens in select theatres May 12, including Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto and Bytowne in Ottawa

Critic’s Pick

There is an unusual credit listed early in the new Canadian-Danish documentary Twice Colonized, which follows the Greenlandic Inuit lawyer and activist Aaju Peter. In the “written by” credit, the film lists director Lin Alluna’s name, but also Peter herself. Traditionally, documentarians aren’t exactly fond of letting their subjects be so closely involved in the construction of their own cinematic portrait. But as Alluna’s startlingly effective new film proves over and over, there is nothing traditional about Peter.

A fierce defender of the seal hunt, a champion of Indigenous people in both Canada and Denmark, and the key instigator in the fight to establish an Indigenous forum at the European Union, Peter is a force of nature. And over the course of seven tumultuous years, Peter let Alluna into her life – both its bright spots and its darkest corners. So like Laura Poitras’s recent doc masterpiece All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – which chronicled, and gave editing approval to, its subject, the photographer Nan Goldin – Alluna’s film exemplifies a new approach to documentary cinema. Collaborative, compassionate, raw. It might not be a template for every filmmaker to follow, but in Twice Colonized, bringing Peter inside the process results in a bracing and poetic film that will leave you shaken.

Having earned the rare doc hat trick of enjoying high-profile premieres at Sundance, the Copenhagen Documentary Festival, and Toronto’s Hot Docs, Twice Colonized is destined to start as many conversations as Alluna and Peter shared over the course of their long journey together. Spanning continents, the doc feels both epic and intimate.

Early on, we see Peter type the following words on a computer screen, the opening lines to an ostensible memoir: “Is it possible to change the world and mend your own wounds at the same time?”

Throughout the course of 90 swift minutes, Alluna poses that same question to her audience over and over, following Peter as she achieves legal milestones, and endures personal tragedies. (One scene involving the aftermath of domestic abuse is particularly painful to witness.)

While Alluna – and Peter, too – never quite arrive at an answer to that question above, the pair do succeed in producing a film that is empowering, educating and insightful, all at once. May the film’s release start to mend Peter’s wounds, if not change the world, too.

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