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Review: Twice Colonized

May 12, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Aaju Peter, the subject of filmmaker Lin Allluna’s documentary Twice Colonized (which recently had its world premiere as the opening night film of Hot Docs), is an Inuit lawyer who was born in Greenland, but moved to the Canadian Arctic.

Living in Iqaluit, Aaju is perhaps most notable for her work defending the Canadian seal hunt against international bans on seal products. Many audiences were first introduced to her work in director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s 2016 documentary Angry Inuk, which focused on the impact these bans had on the Indigenous economy and way of life.

If Twice Colonized, which is produced by Arnaquq-Baril, lacks some of the ferocious power of Angry Inuk, this film is engaging in its own right, and serves as more of a candid portrait of Aaju, who allows the camera to have intimate access to her life.

Allluna closely follows Aaju as she meets with members of the Danish parliament, trying to establish a permanent forum for Indigenous Peoples at the European Union. This mission carries personal weight for her, as she was sent away to school in Denmark at age eleven, and was no longer able to speak her Greenlandic language when she returned home, which she considers a form of colonization.

The title of Twice Colonized comes from the name of Aaju’s forthcoming memoir, which we see her working on in the film, and it is very much a personal portrait of her. The documentary offers a decent introduction to her work, while also allowing for moments of vulnerability, such as showing her grieving her young adult son’s death by suicide, and dealing with an abusive boyfriend (who is never shown on camera, only heard on the phone).

In the film, we see Aaju emotionally going back home to Greenland to visit places from her childhood, and meeting with Sami people in Sweden who lived a similar experience of having their culture erased. Through this, Twice Colonized is able to show the way different forms of colonialism continue to impact people, while showcasing Aaju’s inspiring resilience and her choice to keep fighting in the face of all she has gone through.

Twice Colonized opens in limited release on May 12th, including at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto. It’s being distributed in Canada by Films We Like.

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