Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things treats its subject matter with thoughtful and meticulous nuance. It’s a fascinating and intelligent study of growing LGBT acceptance in Nunavut contextualised within a heartbreaking retelling of Canada’s twentieth-century colonisation of Inuit people. Care has been taken to balance the testimony of often (but not exclusively) non-Inuit experts with the lived experience of Inuit people, and white residents who have adopted Nunavut as their home.
The film’s argument – that oppressive (and often Christian) values from the South introduced homophobic prejudice that wasn’t originally part of Inuit culture – is cogently expressed. Mark Kenneth Woods and Michael Yerxa critique the obfuscating power of “official” history and are sensitive both to cultural differences and how they are inflected through language. Despite its argumentative power and attention to detail, Two Soft Things isn’t overly academic. It consistently takes into account the tangible emotional and psychological consequences felt by modern Inuits. The resulting examination of shared postcolonial trauma is often deeply sad, yet it is paired with a celebratory attitude towards Inuit culture, in the form of traditional singing on the soundtrack and striking footage of Nunavut’s dramatic landscape.
As the narrative progresses, Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things becomes more optimistic, and the voices of out Nunavut highschoolers are a joyful testament to the inspiring rate of progress that’s been made in less than a generation. However, Woods and Yerxa are careful not to overstate improvements, ending on a hopeful and encouraging note as activists from the North and South collaborate.
Two Soft Things, Two Hard Things is the product of thorough historical and sociological research, made with restraint and sensitivity. The compact team of filmmakers observe, but never impose. This story is crucial to all of Canada, and to any country with a history of colonialism.
CAST: Jack Anawak, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Allison Brewer, Franco Buscemi
DIRECTORS: Mark Kenneth Woods, Michael Yerxa
WRITERS: Mark Kenneth Woods, Michael Yerxa
SYNOPSIS: As a small group in Nunavut, Canada, prepare for a seminal LGBTQ Pride celebration in the Arctic, the film explores how colonisation and religion have shamed and erased traditional Inuit beliefs about sexuality and family structure and how, 60 years later, a new generation of Inuit are actively “unshaming” their past.