Braving the Arctic winds

Local documentarist explores the intersecting lives of two different cultures in two different time periods while filming in the Arctic

Local documentary filmmaker Eva Wunderman (above in the ski mask) explores the intersecting lives of the descendants of Swedish legend Petter Norberg in Kugluktuk. The historical documentary with a contemporary twist is slated to be released this year.

Wunderman is working on a historical documentary with a contemporary twist; tracing the roots of Swedish explorer and fur trader Petter Norberg, and documenting the reunion of his modern day descendants — a journey that spans two continents, two vastly differently cultures, and a century.

Norberg left Sweden at the end of the 19th century in a quest to find gold. His journey brought him to the Western Artic, where he fell in love with and married a Gwitchin woman.

The marriage produced children.

Almost a century later, his descendants reunited in the small town of Kugluktuk, Nunavut in mid April this year, where Wunderman and her crew braved the extreme cold to get  footage (a practice Wunderman is familiar with and enjoys as part of the filmmaking process.

Edna Elias, the former Nunavut commissioner and the great-granddaughter of Petter Norberg, met with Frederik Norberg of Sweden, Petter’s great-grandnephew, for the first time in the small Inuit establishment on the coast of Coronation Gulf in western Nanuvut, largely because of the efforts of Wunderman.

Wunderman first learned of the story from a Swedish author who crafted a short factual book on the subject, and knew it was something she had to explore.

“I thought this is a story that needs to be told, after I read about Petter and all the things he did,” said Wunderman in an interview at her home on top of Thacker Mountain.

The award winning filmmaker is no stranger to historical pieces, having taken a stab at the history of the Fraser Canyon with her documentary entitled “Canyon Wars,” which explores the tenuous relationships between settlers and First Nations in the region.

The narrative of the documentary provided the opportunity for Elias to discover more about her Swedish roots, while allowing Norberg to foster a better understanding of his great-granduncle’s experiences (he is planning to write a book  about Petter’s life) as the second person in history to sail the Northwest Passage in a single vessel.

Norberg established the northernmost Hudson’s Bay trading post, and had many adventures that included the rescue of Knud Ramussen during the Danish Fifth Thule Expedition.

He eventually disappeared during a canoe trip, but his legend survived and will have the chance to be told on the big screen, once Wunderman is done logging the footage and piecing it together.