Living with Giants: the life of a young Inuk

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A great documentary leaves the storytelling to its subjects and captures the setting and context in which its characters live their lives without altering the landscape or inserting the filmmakers own voice into the narrative. Living with Giants does all of this, and while it doesnt offer any solutions to the struggles faced by its Indigenous characters, it portrays their lives accurately and brings their reality to a mainstream Canadian audience.


Set in the community of Inukjuak (Inuktitut for the Giant) on the northern bank of the Innuksuak River, Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Levésques film is shot almost entirely in Inuktitut, with English sprinkled in, and was originally released with French subtitles as Chez les géants.

The film delves into the mind of 17-year-old Paulusie Kasudluak who lives with his elderly adoptive parents and takes care of them as part of his daily routine. Paulusie has adult responsibilities and aspirations of becoming a great hunter and providing for his community. He enjoys solitude, but loves his girlfriend Nikuusi Elijassiapik and his broAllie, a long-time buddy.

The first 20 minutes of the film slowly show the ins and outs of Paulusies life in Inukjuak. He cares for his ailing father, helps his mother around the house, repairs an ATV with Allie and spends time taking selfies and laughing with Nikuusi.

Lurking just below the surface, however,  are inner demons and personal insecurities as Paulusie wrestles with a darker side of himself. The film changes pace when Paulusie lashes out in a fit of jealousy and his life is turned upside down. We see him arguing with his girlfriend over a guy shes been chatting with on Facebook as they drink smuggled booze at a graduation bonfire party.

In the next scene, Paulusie is in handcuffs, standing in the sun on the local airport tarmac with his friend Allie, using his phone and smoking a cigarette. Charged with assault, he is detained at a provincial prison Saint-Jérôme while awaiting trial before being transferred to Amos.


Guilty and ashamed, Paulusie refused to allow the cameras to follow him during his months behind bars. Instead, we see close-ups of his personal prison diary which details the layout of his cell block, his regrets, his longing for Nikuusi and the frightening, violent dreams he has on a regular basis.

When Paulusie eventually gets bail he returns to Inukjuak. But hes no longer the same person, without his former spark and charisma and feeling at odds with the community he used to love. When he finally reunites with Nikuusi Paulusie Paulusie confesses that he would rather die than return to prison. The documentarys tragic conclusion is emotional and moving, adding to the films authenticity by presenting the bitter truth.

While tackling complex social issues like violence, depression and suicide was not the original plan for directors Rist and Leroux-Lévesque, the duo did a spectacular job of capturing the essence of Paulusies struggle and shifting gears in the face of the unpredictable. The result is something darker than intended but nonetheless compelling.

The cinematography is breathtaking. Viewers get a glimpse into the inner workings of Inukjuak and the intimate dialogue that highlights Paulusies intrinsic connection to the land and the mythology of his ancestors.


Shots of Paulusie hunting seal and caribou from his boat and cruising around town on a four-wheeler with his mother and best friend paint a picture of what its like to live in the far north. Eerie scenes of Paulusie walking through the community in a wolf mask add an element of fantasy and folklore.

Chez les géants was originally screened at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and RIDM, the Montreal International Documentary Festival. It garnered the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award at Hot Docs 2016 and is currently screening at the Cinémathèque québécoise (355 de Maisonneuve E) in Montreal on Tuesdays (French subtitles) and Thursdays (English subtitles).

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