Tanya Tagaq Threatens to Sue Filmmaker over Allegedly Racist Documentary

Tanya Tagaq Threatens to Sue Filmmaker over Allegedly Racist Documentary
A still from Dominic Gagnon's of the North.
Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq has frequently been an outspoken advocate for the peoples of the Canadian North, and this has included feuding with PETA over indigenous seal hunts. Now, she is threatening filmmaker Dominic Gagnon with legal action over his apparent unauthorized use of her music in his film of the North.

The film has been shown at festivals around the world, and it recently made its Canadian premiere at the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM). It's a found footage feature that Gagnon pieced together using clips that people from the North posted on YouTube. It includes footage of daily life, but also disturbing scenes of drunkenness, violence, vomiting and sex.

The soundtrack features music from indigenous musicians, including Tagaq. In response, she sent out a series of angry tweets: Speaking with CBC, Tagaq confirmed that she intends to sue Gagnon if her music is not removed from the film, pointing out that he has never been to the North and has no right to portray the region or its peoples. "Violent, wandering drunks that neglect their children and don't care for the lives of animals: that's the image I took away from the film," she said. "I think it's kind of a cheap move to totally play up a negative stereotype of a marginalized people for your own artistic gain."

Gagnon, on the other hand, said that of the North is not intended to portray the North in a negative way. Rather, it's about what Inuit people choose to share online. He said, "They are defiant. They are not following the path that some people would like them to follow, and I feel like I had the right to represent that as well. Not only the politically correct idea or image of the Inuit, but the jackasses and the drunks and the whatever."

Tagaq has threatened to sue Gagnon if he doesn't take her voice out of the film. Meanwhile, she praised Quebec film centre DAÏMÔN for apparently cancelling a screening of the documentary that was scheduled on December 3. As of press time, however the screening is still listed on DAÏMÔN's website, so it's not clear whether it will be going ahead.

Watch a trailer for the film below.

UPDATE (11/26, 4:40 p.m.): According to a series of tweets from Tagaq, Gagnon has now agreed to remove her music from the film.