December 9, 2015

Jesse B. Staniforth on “of the North” – Quebec filmmaker uses YouTube and unauthorized music to portray the Inuit


I highly recommend this piece by Jesse B. Staniforth:

“of the North” – Quebec filmmaker uses YouTube and unauthorized music to portray the Inuit

As well, in a Facebook comment Jesse added this note:

The story I submitted was so much longer than it was supposed to be so a lot of it had to be cut for space (and they did a GREAT job). However, I originally ended with this coda, which I think is worth sharing:

I emailed Mara Gourd-Mercado for clarification about the statement, asking, “rather than presume the Indigenous audience of this film is misreading it, are you concerned that your reading of the film ‘confronting stereotypes’ is grounded in your lack of knowledge and experience of Indigenous communities? Do you stand by your contention that this film is critical of those stereotypes?”

Gourd-Mercado replied, “One of the main things we take away from our conversation last week and that is important for us to express right now is not the RIDM's perception of the film. We need to listen to the opinions that are emerging from the Inuit communities, and to establish communication channels with members of this community. We hope to be able to enter a more inclusive dialogue regarding the film and our programming moving forward. As we stated this takes time and we are ready to put in the work at any cost.”



daniele bevilacqua said...

Call me a rascit, I'll be your mirror.

Oh my god! this is the most poorly written article I've ever read! It' s so one-sided! it has been written by a white guy seeking fame in the sake of minority. This article sounds like " and he says that and I says that and blablabla...Reading it was like reading a piece of " Presse people". I've seen " of the North" and I can honestly say that what Jesse saw wasn't what it was really in that film. Stephen Puskas is a very nice guy who is, from my opinion, manipulated by Jesse Staniforth. I've the feeling that Stephan doesn't realized that he's been colonized by white suprematist culture.Stephen cannot agree with a non paternalistic representation of his poeple. WHY?
Sorry, but Jesse is really fucked-up!! jacob, I would like you were able to see this film so you would may be stop this propaganda you are relaying by posting anything related against the artist and its film. Are you aware that Dominic gagnon and Tanya Tagaq are kind of friend now?
Dominic was drunk and Jesse used the interview of a drunk guy to built is article? Dominic says that he smokes joints and he became a junky in Jesse's words?what an ethical statement! I don't know Dominic but I met him very quickly at RIDM. Dominic was with his wife and their six years old daughter. I haven't met an racist guy but an artist really engaged with his Art. I believe he did an important film, a free film without compromises nor moral judgment. A film that even concerned people have difficulties to deal with. Do you think that it's the right things to do to put under the carpet what's still going on up North? neo territory colonialsm? abuse of women? silencing indigenious community by cultural assimilation and money?

Where some saw a vulgar or obscene vagina, I saw a reference to Courbet's painting" L'origine du monde". And there is no dog anus following this cut... don't understand why you are so into this "affair", especially when you don't know what you are talking about. (the film)

jesse tries to manipulate the opinion by describing the film the way he saw it. But a lot of poeple desagree with him, including Inuits. Why not to ear the others view? would you call "racist" those who liked, loved the film? among them were also indigenous people .

Who is jesse:
Since 2008, J. B. Staniforth has specialized in speech writing. While on contract with McGill, he prepared speeches and speaking-notes for the president, vice-president, and vice-chancellors of the University, along with distinguished alumni, the deans of most faculties, and major contributors to the university’s fundraising campaign. As a freelance speech writer and speech editor, he has since prepared materials for former Quebec Prime Minister Jean Charest, and former Quebec Minister for Economic Development Clément Gignac, as well as other local and national business figures.

And I can"t wait to meet you in person to talk about this with you. Sorry, my english is my third language, but as I assume you don't speech french, I hope that my comment will be readable to you. Daniel.

Jacob Wren said...

Yes Daniele, we clearly disagree.

I've never had as much debate around anything in my life as I have around this film.

One of the reasons I continue posting about this film is because people keep writing me and telling me to stop. Which has never happened to me before, and makes me feel this issue is incredibly divisive and therefore incredibly important.

I'm more than willing to speak about it if we meet in person some day.

I believe these are truly the questions of our time.

For example, this article about poetry speaks to many of the same questions:


Daniele Bevilacqua said...

J'aurais aimé voir ces deux actions de mes propres yeux avant d'avoir le point de vue de deux intelectuels qui me font penser qu'ils appartiennent à une mouvance d'extrème gauche fascisante. Pour moi cet article démontre une mesure paternaliste envers les personnes racisées (venant aussi de personnes racisées elles-mêmes). Nous vivons dans une époque régressive et bien pensante. C'est du fascisme inversé. Nous muselons la parole et nous faisons des lectures perverties par une culpabilité de colonisateurs. Je cois à la sincerité de ces deux poètes comme je crois à la sincèrité de Gagnon. La liberté d'expression souvent citée dans cet article comme étant la dernière excuse exclue du débat me fait peur: c'est dans ces arguments que j'y lis du fascisme. J'assiste à beaucoup de mauvaise foi. Ces attitudes choquées ne font que renforcé la division entre les populations blanches et racisées. Il n'y a pas de dialogue. Comme il n' y a pas de dialogue réel entre Gagnon et ses détracteurs. Les détracteurs de Gagnon n'ont pas jugés bons de lui parlé. Ils l'ont lappidé, comme tu le fais, sur les murs des médias sociaux. Quelle preuve de dialogue et de comprehésion? je me pose encore une fois la question des privilèges. Qui est le privilégié dans toute cette histoire? dans ce deux cas, je pense vraiment qu'on se trompe de cible. Je pense que nous avons affaire à une pensée fascisante d'une élite culturelle paternaliste et méprisante et qui crée de la division. Et ça me ramène à penser que c'est pour protéger des privilèges et non pas les personnes racisées. J'imagine que toi non plus, tu n'as pas vu ces deux actions comme pas plus tu n'as vu "of the North"?
Au nom de quoi tu parles? peux-tu répondre à cette question?

Anonymous said...

So in purpose:
White People Whitesplain Whitesplaining

Jesse Staniforth said...

Hi Daniel(e) (or Sonya, if that's you again writing under another name?),

A few points of response:

Stephen Agluvak Puskas is a far smarter person than I am. He is well-educated in film and anthropology, has lived in Inuit communities, and is a researcher by trade who also sits on at least one Inuit community board in the city of Montreal. To suggest that he has been "manipulated by [me and] doesn't realized that he's been colonized by white suprematist culture [and] cannot agree with a non paternalistic representation of his poeple" is a profoundly paternalistic, racist statement that frames him as childlike, naive, and unable to provide an analysis of his own. In fact, I am very grateful to his knowledge of and education in film for informing my own viewing of the film. Your dismissal of him, which plays upon the notion that Inuit are childlike, easily led, and therefore always subservient to white people and cannot have advanced ideas or criticisms of their own, is pretty much the embodiment of white supremacy.

Re: your accusation that I am a "written by a white guy seeking fame in the sake of minority," (a) I suggest you don't presume to know my ancestry, and (b) I've worked for going on five years at a magazine with a circulation of 8,000 serving the Eeyouch of Eeyou Istchee, have visited the Cree Nation many times, and have taken classes in Iyuyiyamuwin, all for a job that pays me, on average, half my months' rent. If I were seeking fame I hope I'd have had a better plan for it than this, but luckily knowledge of the rich 7,000-year-old history of Eeyou culture and traditions and the friendship of many Eeyouch have been far more rewarding than fame. Also, I get to eat moose, goose, caribou, and beaver far more often than before, which is nice.

Dominic Gagnon told me, in his own words, on tape, "I’m sorry, but I’m a drunk, I’m a toxico [drug addict], I have no prejudice about how they live right now. What I saw in the film does not shock me. I’m sorry about that, but I have total awareness of what’s going on, and I don’t feel it’s so bad. They have the right to have fun a little bit, even if they’re drunks and sociopaths." I can upload audio of that tape if you'd like.

"Do you think that it's the right things to do to put under the carpet what's still going on up North? neo territory colonialsm? abuse of women? silencing indigenious community by cultural assimilation and money?"

"of the North" does not confront any of these issues in any visible way. It shows a lot of people who are fucked up and presumes the audience understands why, but given that the director doesn't even understand why ("colonialism" is not enough of an answer: you'll have to be more specific than that), I wouldn't assume the audience knows anything about Northern Indigenous cultures at all, even about how they have endured and responded to colonialism. (PS. For added believability, feel free to name some aspects of colonialism, how they occurred in the North, and how they have affected Northern Indigenous cultures!)


Jesse Staniforth said...

[... continued]

"And there is no dog anus following this cut..."

This is flat-out untrue, though I have to credit this entirely to Stephen, who's been to film school and has a much more careful eye for mise-en-scene than I do. He'd read an appraisal of the film comparing its editing to Dziga Vertov, who was I guess known for his editing, so he was watching very closely. He brought this issue to my attention and I noticed it when I watched the film again. Other people I talked to had noticed that and were upset by it as well. Of course, the film is no longer available so we can't all watch it together to confirm or deny this, and I would perhaps not be surprised if a future cut of this film no longer contains this editing choice.

"jesse tries to manipulate the opinion by describing the film the way he saw it. But a lot of poeple desagree with him, including Inuits."

It's true that I only interviewed six different Inuit for the article, but I really didn't encounter a SINGLE Indigenous voice supporting this film anywhere. I'd have very gladly included them in the article since it would have made it a far more interesting point-counterpoint story. Please forward any Inuit (or Indigenous) support for the film that you have, as I'd be interested to see it.

Not sure what the use of quoting from my professional website is, unless you're trying to argue that I'm somehow affiliated with the liberal party (I am definitely not)? That website helps me get the work I need to support myself and my partner outside of my work for the Nation, which I love, but which pays very, very little. Interestingly, Dominic Gagnon appears to have gotten more money in grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Quebec in the last 15 years than I have earned in labour. I don't begrudge him that, as I believe a society that supports its culture is one in which culture thrives. (Even if the culture it funds is, in this case, ultimately influenced by unconscious reflection of colonial white-supremacist simplification of Indigenous cultures. I'm not going to turn this into an argument against funding for the arts.) But I find it kind of funny that you cite my professional profile as an attempt to undermine me, while it is in fact the means by which I support continued work in Indigenous journalism.

Oh, by the way, you spelled your name differently at the top of your message than you did at the bottom.


Jesse Staniforth

daniele bevilacqua said...

Who is Sonya by the way??

i think that you are not honest. Why do you have to justify your income? and why do you have to put you roots here? you said that you are not considering people who claims having indegenious roots??
Sorry, you are not honest and you are not playing a fare game.
And yes, my name is Daniele bevilacqua.

Jesse Staniforth said...

I used to teach college students how to write essays. One thing I used to tell them is that it's not enough to be convincing in an argument to simply say that you believe a thing is true, but that you must also provide some form of evidence to support your claim.

Do you have any evidence to support the claim that I am dishonest? What form does my dishonesty take? You can google my publication history at the Nation to find out how long I've worked there, or the many things I have previously written about (on the order of 40+ articles per year since the fall of 2011), so your contention that I'm only writing about this subject to "seeking fame" seems to lack adequate support.

Or are you just calling me dishonest because you didn't like my article?

daniele bevilacqua said...

the proof is that you act like a paranoid, and also because you are on constant justification of your self....I cannot trust you since I've learned that you write speaches for Charest and his friends...those who work for the PLAN NORD...

Jesse Staniforth said...

So let me make sure I'm clear here. Because in the winter of 2011, when I had no work at all and needed any money I could get to pay my rent, that because then I took several assignments editing and re-writing speeches for Charest and Gignac (the speeches were, in fact, about the Plan Nord), that means that I therefore am not honest in my criticism of this film? And that because I use my experience to advertise for more work writing speeches (with which I support myself doing Indigenous community journalism), I must therefore continue to be a Charest supporter?

I didn't support Jean Charest. I didn't like the Plan Nord. I had many, many unpleasant interactions with the SPVM and the SQ while marching with the students in 2012 protesting Charest and his policies. Yet because I accepted a job when I had no work, that renders me dishonest? Despite having written, so far, 55 articles for a Cree magazine this year, you nonetheless believe that I am a stealth supporter of Jean Charest and the Plan Nord?

If this is your argument, well, good luck to you, and have a nice evening.

Jesse Staniforth said...

Oh, by the way, Daniel-- you claim you're a real person, and are not Dominic Gagnon or his wife Sonja (who, like you, speaks English as a third language, writes in a style is similar to yours, and who contacted me out of the blue to criticise me before my article was even written, despite never having met me).

If you don't know Gagnon but did, in fact, only meet him very briefly at the RIDM, how do you come up with the claim that he and Tagaq are "kind of friends now"? How did you come to know that information? Did you become friends with Gagnon after meeting him? Wouldn't that make your claim not to know him suspicious?

If you don't know Gagnon, do you find it just a little suspicious that Gagnon sent Stephen Agluvak Puskas the VERY SAME "White People Whitesplain Whitesplaining" video the day before it was posted here?

It seems possible to me, Daniel Bevilacqua (Should I call you "Christophe"?), that you may not actually be a real person, but instead may be either Sonja Zlatanova, Gagnon's partner, or Gagnon himself, or a combination of the two.

If you are not Gagnon or Zlatanova, can I arrange to meet with you in person to interview you about your participation in this conversation and the points you've made here? I presume you are located in Montreal?



daniele Bevilacqua said...

I'ts written in VOIR:Après ces deux entretiens avec les artistes, la chanteuse Tanya Tagaq a souhaité être mise en relation avec le réalisateur Dominic Gagnon. Aux dernières informations, ils ont réussi à dialoguer sur skype et se sont plutôt bien entendus.

I think you are making a mistake about who is who and you should contatct Gagnon and his wife to make it clear. Not me.
You can travel to Milano and meet me, when you won't.
And the whitesplain video is on youtube by the way.
And that's it!

Jesse Staniforth said...

Hi Daniele,

Your read of that section of the Voir article is that they are "sort of friends" because they talked over skype? Interesting.

So you're from Milan, but just happened to be in Montreal for RIDM? And then followed up on your return to Milan by reading Voir? Did you already follow Jacob's blog, or were you interested in the film so you continued googling it a full two weeks after the screenings took place, in order to be able to respond to this within a day of Jacob posting it?

Are you Italian? What brought you to Montreal for the RIDM? Did you happen to take an interest in Canadian Indigenous issues prior to your arrival, such that you would be concerned about "what's still going on up North? neo territory colonialsm? abuse of women? silencing indigenious community by cultural assimilation and money?"

Your accusation that I was dishonest because I wrote several speeches for Jean Charest in 2011, led to this claim: "I cannot trust you since I've learned that you write speaches for Charest and his friends...those who work for the PLAN NORD..."

Was the Plan Nord a big issue of discussion in Italy? How did you come to find out about it? Do you have some connection to Montreal? Perhaps we have some friends in common. You can find me on Facebook, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn. If you have a pre-existing account on one of those networks, you could add me to prove that you are a real person.

I am altogether willing to be wrong about your identity: if you prove yourself to be real person who just happens to post the same videos as Dominic Gagnon privately sends to his critics, I will admit that I was wrong in believing otherwise and apologize for having suggested that you did not exist.

Anonymous said...

paranoid government spy, plan nord...c'mon, jesse, tell us the truth

J. B. Staniforth has written and/or edited speeches and speaking notes for:

Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest,
Former Quebec Minister of Economic Development Clément Gignac,

Former Chair of McGill's Board of Governors/President of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Robert Rabinovitch, and
Former McGill University Vice-chancellor and Vice-president of the International Olympic Committee Richard "Dick" Pound.

Jacob Wren said...

Don't feed the trolls.

Jesse Staniforth said...

Daniele, I believe you are not being honest about your identity and your relationship to Dominic Gagnon. However, as I said, I am open to the possibility that I am wrong, that you have been honest this entire time about being a stranger who does not know Dominic Gagnon and lives in Italy. If this is the case, I will apologize publicly to you.

In order for us to arrive at that conclusion, however, we must discuss further. If you're not going to respond to my questions above, would you agree to meet with me over skype? I would ask you to show me photo identification with your name and the city of Milan, as you have said this is your real name and that is where you live.

Would that work for you? As you know from my website, my email address is "jbstaniforth" at gmail dot com. You can contact me that way and we can set up a meeting.


Jesse Staniforth said...

Daniele, it's been a couple of days and I haven't received a response from you. Would you be willing to communicate with me via skype to verify your about your identity and location?

Jesse Staniforth said...

Daniele, it's been more than a week now since I asked you to verify your name and location, which you said were real, when you accused me (in a racist diatribe that dismissed the huge contributions of scholar Stephen Agluvak Puskas as meaningless because, I gather, he's an Inuk) of being a liar, untrustworthy, and possibly a spy. I am not convinced that you are Dominic Gagnon or his wife Sonja, but I believe you are related to them in some way, as a friend, associate, or simply just a supporter. Perhaps you're not, but given the ties you have indicated to them, I am suspicious. I would like to know for sure what your name actually is, and where you are actually from. I would happily accept you proving that you are actually named Daniele and you live in Milan. But again, proof is what I'm looking for.

Is it safe to say that you've decided to leave the discussion? Will I get any verifiable proof of your identity, or will this be how we leave this most entertaining discussion that began with you disparaging me as dishonest and manipulative?

I remain open to communicating with you for proof of your identity. My email is above, but of course it's also on my web site, which you searched for information with which to discredit me.