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// Films // Qallunaat! Why White People Are Funny

Qallunaat! Why White People Are Funny

Mark Sandiford / Canada / 2006 / 52 ' / English


Christopher Cooper
Mark Sandiford
Gary Elmer
Mark Sandiford & Kent Martin

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Awards & Festivals

2007, Best Aboriginal Film, Golden Sheaf Awards, Yorkton
2008, Canada Award, Gemini Awards, Toronto

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In Production

A humbling portrait of what it must feel like to be the object of the white man's gaze.


Funny? What's so funny about white people, otherwise known as Qallunaat to the Inuit? Well, among other curious behaviours, Qallunaat ritualistically greet each other with inane salutations, repress natural bodily functions, complain a lot about being cold, and seem to want to dominate the world.

This docucomedy is collaboration between filmmaker Mark Sandiford and Inuit writer and satirist, Zebedee Nungak. Zebedee is CEO and head researcher of the mythical Qallunaat Studies Institute (QSI). According to Nungak, "Qallunaat ought to be the object of some kind of study by other cultures. The more I thought about the way they have studied us over the years it occured to me, why don't we study them?"

In its use of archival clips, Why White People Are Funny pokes as much fun at the illustrious history of NFB documentaries as it does at society in the south. Of course, well before the NFB came into existence, and at least as early as the classic 1922 feature "Nanook of the North," white society has been fascinated with native subjects, studying them as exotic specimens, documenting their cultural and social behaviours. That tendency to frame a world of Eskimo "others" dominated both film Why White People Are Funny brings the documentary form to an unexpected place. Those who were holding the mirror up to Inuit culture finally have it turned back on themselves. The result is not always pretty, but it sure is amusing. From the Inuit point of view, visitors from the south are nothing less than "accidents waiting to happen."

Filmmaker Mark Sandiford's extended time in the Arctic has resulted in a fresh and long overdue "study" of Qallunaat from the Inuit point of view. Not surprisingly, these "Qallunologists" find the ways of white culture a bit peculiar. Consider their odd dating habits, lame attempts at arctic exploration, their overbearing bureaucrats, need for Police, and curious obsession with owning property.


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