The film THE GRIZZLIES will open April 19 in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria, and will expand to other cities April 26.
Based on a true story, Miranda de Pencier’s The Grizzlies is a drama about a group of Inuit students in the Arctic where suicide rates in 2004 were the highest in North America.
When rookie teacher Russ Sheppard (Ben Schnetzer) arrives in the small Nunavut town
of Kugluktuk, he’s culturally unaware of the Inuit ways. The students are suspicious of him. But, upon embracing the sport of lacrosse, the teens evoke change in the teacher, themselves and the community.
The film debuted as a Special Presentation at TIFF 2018, and picked up audience awards at Calgary 2018 and Palm Springs 2019. De Pencier also won the 2018 DGC award for directorial achievement of a feature.
More than 600 young people from the Arctic auditioned for roles in the film, including those who would go on to receive best acting nominations —lead actor Paul Nutarariaq and supporting actress Anna Lambe—and up-and-comer Emerald MacDonald, all of whom play students.
The actors have experienced many of the same challenges as their characters, bringing a level of authenticity and sensitivity to the screen.
One third of the crew was Inuit.
The film features original music by Indigenous hip hop artists, including Dan General (DJ Shub), Thomas
Lambe (666God), Adam Tanuyak (Hyper-T) for their song “Trials”.
Two of the producers (Stacey Aglok MacDonald, who grew up in Kugluktuk, and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril) are from Nunavut.
The film is currently on a northern tour, screening in 33 remote Indigenous communities from Kugluktuk to Yellowknife and continues through to May.
Also starring are veteran Tantoo Cardinal as the beleaguered high school principal, comedian Will Sasso in a dramatic turn as a burnt-out teacher, and Twilight star Booboo Stewart as a natural athlete lacking confidence.
The film marks the feature directorial debut of Toronto’s Miranda de Pencier (producer of CSA-winner Anne with an E). Script is by Emmy winners Graham Yost and Moira Walley-Beckett, from a story by Yost.