Whitehorse resident Dennis Allen has crafted a successful career out of telling stories close to his heart: stories of life and culture of the people of the North.
Allen, who is of Inupiat Eskimo and Gwich’in decent, is the co-director, along with David Finch, of Watchers of the North, a new documentary series that portrays Canadian Rangers’ search and rescue missions in Nunavut.
For Allen, being offered the role of episode director has been an opportunity to discover Nunavut.
“As an Aboriginal person, I’m always thinking, ‘What I can learn from the land?'” Allen says.
Danger and risk are part of the Nunavut landscape, lending an inherent drama to the documentary series, which streams online at the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) website.
Watchers of the North is also a reminder of a part of Canadian history that’s sometimes forgotten: the Canadian Rangers.
The Canadian Rangers originated as the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, patrolling the coastline of British Columbia in the early 1940s to protect the area from Japanese invasion. Today the Canadian Rangers play an important role in the North: maintaining Canada’s Northern sovereignty by patrolling the land and protecting our resources.
“I was scared half to death travelling up there because… I had no landmarks, I had no reference,” Allen says.
This is coming from a fellow who has produced several film and video projects in the North. His first production Someplace Better, set in Yellowknife, NWT, was screened at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and his most recent film, CBQM: The Biggest Little Radio Station in the North, which won best documentary at the 2009 ImagineNative Film Festival in Toronto, was set in Fort McPherson, NWT. He has a deep well of creativity; his successes with producing/directing film and video including a dramatic television series he co-created for APTN called Cashing In.
Living in Whitehorse, Allen finds a strong arts community to draw upon for creativity.
“You can’t throw a rock without hitting an artist,” says Allen. “Half the people I know are artists. They are either musicians that I’ve played with before, or they work in the film and TV industry.”
Allen particularly enjoys making documentaries as a means to contribute to the creation of art and the maintenance of Aboriginal culture.
“People entrust me with license to document their lives and give them a voice,” he says.
For more interesting tidbits about the Canadian Rangers, go to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s website APTN.ca.
APTN streams Watchers of the North episodes online at APTN.ca/Pages/WatchersoftheNorth. A schedule of APTN’s presentations can be also be found on APTN.ca.
For more information about Dennis Allen’s work, go to MackDelta.com.