MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 12, 2024: TWICE COLONIZED

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“Is it possible to change the world and mend your own wounds at the same time?” That question is at the heart of Lin Alluna’s moving documentary Twice Colonized, which follows passionate Inuit lawyer Aaju Peter as she fights for the rights of Indigenous people while simultaneously dealing with heartbreaking personal loss, an abusive relationship, and — underlying everything — the lasting impact of the trauma of forced assimilation as a child.

Sent from her native Greenland to Denmark for school — and to live with White families — when she was just 11, Peter has spent much of her adulthood advocating for the recognition of the importance of Indigenous culture and traditions. And while her staunch defense of the Inuits’ long-held seal-hunting practices had some animal activists seeing red, Peter’s persistence and determination — especially when it comes to pressing for a permanent forum for Indigenous peoples in the European Union — make her a powerful force, as well as an inspiration, particularly for her fellow Inuits and other Indigenous people.

But Peter isn’t always tough and fearless: Alluna captures many intimate personal moments in Twice Colonized as well (the movie’s title refers both to the arrival of European settlers in the Arctic and the impact that the current laws and policies in Canada have on its Indigenous people). During the course of filming, Peter, the mother of five, learns that her youngest son has died by suicide, a devastating blow that ultimately spurs her to re-examine her own history (and to leave a no-good boyfriend behind).

The end result is a film that portrays Peter as a complex, fascinating woman who loves playing Bingo as much as schooling legislators, and facilitating her granddaughters’ flights of fancy as much as speaking out in public. She stays positive despite the many blows life sends her, knowing that her cause is important, both for herself and many others like her. As she concludes near the end of the film, “In your life, your experience is your power. It’s your choice to use it.”– Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Loren King What a moving and powerful introduction to the life and work of Aaju Peter, the Inuit activist lawyer from Arctic Canada who gives Twice Colonized director Lin Alluna extraordinary access over a seven year period. The film begins with Peter’s recounting of her childhood in Greenland. Like many good Inuit students, she was forced to leave her home for Denmark where she endured the familiar, disturbing story of forced assimilation. Along the journey of Peter’s fight for social justice and human rights for indigenous people, the past and present collide and entwine. Her struggles mirror collective ones. Her beloved teenage son is the victim of suicide, a far too common fate among young indigenous people, and she leaves an abusive relationship. Beautifully photographed and sensitively filmed by Alluna, whether it is Peter dancing with abandon to Tina Turner or speaking candidly with a group of high school girls about her life and struggles, Peter’s activism embodies the adage that the personal is political. But for her, the political— past and present and in every corner of the globe — is also deeply personal.

Pam Grady: A lawyer, an activist, and a mother, Aaju Peter is a native of Greenland, who was ripped from her family as a child and educated in Denmark in an effort to strip the little girl of her indigenous Inuk identity. As an adult, she would marry a Canadian and settle in Nunavut and experience that government’s mistreatment of its native population. Shot over seven years, Lin Alluna’s engrossing documentary captures Peter in late middle age as she navigates the rocky terrain of her life. On one level, Peter is coming in to her own as she confronts the cruelty and official indifference of governments and educates youth and governments alike on the indigenous experience. But for all of her strength and personal empowerment in her public life, her private life is something else as tragedy impacts her life. Alluna’s camera doesn’t shy away from these moments, a strength of the film as it offers an indelible portrait of this extraordinary woman in all of her complexity.

Nell Minow: It is very moving to see Aaju Peter advocate on behalf of indigenous people. It is very moving to see her mourn her son, who committed suicide in his teens. But what is most touching in this documentary is seeing Ms. Peter’s increasing realization that she is not disconnected from her roots, not colonized, indeed un-colonizable. Her realization near the end of how powerfully she is connected to her ancestors and how deep that connection continues through her grandchildren. “Your experience is your power,” she says. Everything she learned from her “colonizers” helps her to speak in the terms necessary for presenting the cause of justice to tribunals like the EU. Everything she learned from her ancestors gives her the courage and determination she needs for the fight.

Sherin Nicole Through intimately raw storytelling and uncensored rebellion, Lin Alluna’s Twice Colonized sheds light on the caustic effects of colonialism on Indigenous communities from the unwavering vantage point of Greenland attorney and activist Aaju Peter. The documentary serves not only as a megaphone for Peter’s multi-hyphenate voice, but in the same breath, it is an exhalation of the enduring pride of the Inuit people and of a mother’s grief.

Leslie Combemale I am reminded, watching Danish documentarian Lin Alluna’s Twice Colonized, that there is no right way I can talk about indigenous people, if I’m part of the colonial mentality. And of course I am, because by virtue of my birth and upbringing — first in France and then in the US — I have lived and breathed colonization my whole life. It is Aaju Peter, the subject of the film, who reminds me and all viewers of this truth through her words and actions. Peter is a well-known and respected Greenlandic Inuit and indigenous rights lawyer defending the rights of all indigenous people living with the inherent and continued oppression resulting from colonization. Read full review.

Jennifer Merin Twice Colonized chronicles the life and activism of Aaju Peter, a revered Inuit feminist lawyer who has fought for equal rights in Canada, Denmark, Greenland and around the world. She is amazingly charismatic and her story is fascinating. Director Lin Alluna has done a wonderful job of telling it. Be prepared to be inspired!!!

Nikki Fowler: Inuit activist and lawyer Aaju Peter tells her story focusing first on the hardships of living under colonization as a child, relocated for education reasons to Denmark where she was moved around from home to home many times. Then, as an adult, finding her way to Canada after losing her native language, searching for a sense of identify as she sees indigenous people squeezed out of society, overlooked and at many times called “savages.” Now in her 60s’ Aaju states she is still finding her calling but simultaneously wants to share her wealth of knowledge with the world. She succeeds at sharing her emotional and heroic legacy alongside director Lin Alluna. Peter’s very essence is filled with so much history, strength and justice as she shares the tragedies of a community of survivors who feel unseen, struggle with mental health and succumb to high rates of suicide–including loss of her own son. There are so many lessons we can learn from Aaju, frighteningly as history hauntingly threatens to repeat itself. Her strength may be your guiding light for awareness on human rights for her people and for us all.

Liz Whittemore No matter how open-minded we believe we are, Lin Alluna’s documentary Twice Colonized reminds us that we continue to be ruled by the colonizer mindset. The film follows Aaju Peter, an Inuit lawyer, activist, and survivor of unimaginable trauma. Peter is raw, unfiltered, inspiring, and eye-opening. Intimate cinematography and engrossing editing choices keep you engaged throughout. The lessons learned from Twice Colonized? Seek to understand, fight for those who cannot, and live every moment to its fullest.

Cate Marquis Twice Colonized puts a spotlight on a woman who richly deserves one. Aaju Peter is a renowned Greenland-born Inuk lawyer who has tirelessly fought for Indigenous rights for Arctic peoples around the world, particularly in her adopted home of Canada and in Greenland and Denmark. Fierce, bold and charismatic, Aaju Peter challenges the assaults on the rights of indigenous Arctic people which they have endured from colonizers, as well as drawing attention to assaults on their culture, language and economic traditions, attempts at cultural assimilation, past and present, intentional or not, and also efforts to keep traditional peoples in bubble of the past, instead of letting them interact with the world on their own terms. She fights these battles in the courtroom and in the public eye, but director Lin Alluna also focuses on the activist-attorney’s personal life, balancing the two in an even-handed way. There are sweet scenes with her young granddaughter, but also scenes where she discusses personal traumas she has endured, from being sent to school in Denmark at a young age and then returning no longer able to speak her native tongue, to the unexpected the death of her son. Despite it all, her indomitable spirit and defiant will shine through.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Twice Colonized

Directors: Lin Alluna

Release Date: July 12, 2024

Running Time: 91 minutes

Language: English and Danish and Inuktitut with English subtitles.

Screenwriters: Lin Alluna, Aaju Peter

Distribution Company: Film Movement

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Nikki Fowler, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).