SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Danish director Lin Alluna’s first documentary, Twice Colonized, presents the compelling life of Aaju Peter, an Inuk attorney for the Greenland Inuit people. She was born in 1960 in Greenland, then was whisked away to Denmark for school, where she was encouraged to forget the traditional Inuit ways. Peter went to Akitsiraq Law School in Nunavut, Canada, and has spent the larger part of her life fighting for the rights of her people.
Peter suffers a life-altering tragedy when her son commits suicide. Grief compels the lawyer to embark on a journey to reclaim her language and culture after a lifetime of White influence and forced assimilation. Peter seeks to heal her soul by focusing her energies even more ferociously on preserving the Inuit traditions. Alluna follows her life now while telling the story of Peter’s childhood and the various places she’s lived. We learn that she’s in a relationship with an abusive White man.
Twice Colonized covers a plethora of topics Americans are likely unfamiliar with. The Danish colonization of Greenland, the controversy over Inuit seal hunts, and the difficulty of keeping their native language alive are all explored. At one point, Peter declares that she hates speaking Danish and prefers to speak the Inuit tongue, but since she was forced to do her early schooling in Denmark, she’s more fluent in Danish.
“Grief compels the lawyer to embark on a journey to reclaim her language and culture…”
Peter’s anger is clear from the outset of Borrowed. She’s enraged at the fact that Inuit culture is fading and is particularly upset at what she sees as racist attacks on the Inuit seal-hunting tradition. From her perspective, Greenpeace and other activist campaigns against hunting baby Harp seals do not leave enough room for nuance in their understanding of seal hunting to make an exception for the Inuit traditional subsistence sealing. This is a major contributor to the deterioration of Inuit culture.
Aaju Peter was featured in the 2016 documentary Angry Inuk, which follows filmmaker Arnaquq-Baril, Peter, and a group of Inuit seal hunters and activists as they challenge hyperbole about the seal hunt disseminated by animal activists. Interviewed by Canadian Geographic, Arnaquq-Baril says, “I wanted to make this film because it bothered me when I saw animal welfare groups portray seal hunting as an evil and greedy thing. The images and statements they put out don’t reflect the seal hunting that I know. They don’t even mention Inuit.” The documentary was received with predictable degrees of acclaim and outrage.
Peter’s multitudes of seeming contradictions make her all the more fascinating as a subject. She fights colonial decay at a global scale and yet tolerates an abusive White man as a partner. In one scene, he forcibly cuts her hair, thus humiliating her. Peter shows both compassion and rage equally, and despite being on the edge of her 60s, the power of her life force is so strong it practically radiates out visibly.
Alluna says of Peter, “Aaju is an inspiring woman who generously shines a new light on history while pointing us towards a better future by sharing her personal life story with us. I hope she’ll empower you like she inspired all of us who came together to make this film with her.” Twice Colonized allows us viewers to get to know something about Aaju Peter. Whether we understand or agree with all of her passionate positions, she seems to be a person who would be charming to spend time with and enlightening to listen to.
Twice Colonized screened at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.