November 01, 2010

Inupiat extra in Everybody Loves Whales

Alaska seamstress lands role in whale movie

By Mary Beth SmetzerNorth Pole resident Janie Snyder was visiting her sister Rosabelle Rexford for Nalukataq, a spring whaling celebration in Barrow, when the unexpected happened.

The two 60-something sisters were out and about, having fun, chatting and greeting relatives and friends when they heard a voice behind them say, "There are the two we've been looking for."

Perhaps it was the sisters' colorful parkas or their comical antics that attracted a casting director to approach them for the film "Everybody Loves Whales," starring Hollywood starlet Drew Barrymore.

Whatever the reason, the sisters' excursion to watch a blanket toss landed them paying parts as extras in the film about Barrow's epic efforts in 1988 to free three gray whales from the arctic ice.
A small example of why authenticity matters:"It's fun, fun, fun, especially when you correct a director three times," Janie said.

"I was being treated first class after that," she joked.

Janie's corrections dealt with the correct pronunciation of her Native Inupiaq language used in the film.

"Everything has to be said correctly," she said. "This film is for Barrow."
What Snyder does in real life:Janie jokes about being a movie star, but she has long been famous for her sewing, comic wit, love of fishing, berry picking and laughing among her circle of friends.

"She is a woman who is full of energy and she takes great pride in her ability to sew beautiful kuspuks," said her Yup'ik friend Ida Alexie of Bethel. "She has great decorating skill for the trimming."

Janie uses the Inupiaq word atikluk, not kuspuk, for the summer parkas she is renowned for. She has won 15 consecutive gold medals at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics and has stacked up first place awards at the annual Open North American Native clothing contests and the Tanana Valley State Fair.
Comment:  Snyder makes parkas for a living...but she's still far from the stereotypical Eskimo with igloo, parka, and dog sled. Like the Plain Indian stereotype, this stereotype needs to go.

For more on the subject, see Real Conflict in Everybody Loves Whales and Auditions for Everybody Loves Whales.

1 comment:

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