“Ever Deadly” starts with a long scene: two throat singers sing against the backdrop of an Arctic landscape. They stand so close together, their lips almost touch. It is a potent beginning and a well-suited prelude to a portrait of Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, a cinematic collaboration between the experimental musician and award-winning filmmaker Chelsea McMullan. To interview Tagaq and her family and thus allow us to directly experience the context and origin of her music, the film crew accompanies the artist to her hometown, Cambridge Bay in Nunavut: We see Tagaq with her family, witness the breathtaking Northern landscape to which she feels deeply connected, and learn about Canada's dark colonial history and the subsequent traumas that have not been healed to this day. Scenic shots, interviews, family histories, and archival footage link up through Tagaq's poetic texts and the animated drawings by Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona. The heart of the documentary, however, is an improvised live performance, to which the camera repeatedly returns. "Time went for a walk" is a line of one of Tagaq's poems. It refers to the experience of endlessness vis à vis the vastness and beauty of her homeland, but one can still feel it in the narrow concert space; her music makes it possible to physically experience the profound meaning that land and history have for the Canadian voice artist. Even though Tanya Tagaq is already known in Germany as singer and author, this multi-layered, musical film experience will captivate many more people.
Chelsea McMullan and Tanya Tagaq
Chelsea McMullan (they/them) is one of Canada’s leading filmmakers. Chelsea creates documentaries, experimental narrative, and hybrid films that explore the work of notable international artists. Previous features, including "My Prairie Home", a musical documentary about the pioneering transgender musician Rae Spoon, have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, True/False, and other major festivals and venues internationally. They have also directed for television, including episodes of the documentary series "This Is Pop" (Netflix/Crave) and "In the Making" (CBC). Premiering on CBC and on broadcast channels internationally in 2023, the new documentary series "Swan Song" follows the National Ballet of Canada as it rebuilds from the COVID-19 crisis to mount one of the most ambitious productions in its history. Chelsea has also made numerous acclaimed short films about and in collaboration with renowned international artists such as Eileen Myles, Zhang Huan, Isabelle Marant, and Ken Lum.
From Nunavut, Tanya Tagaq is an improvisational singer, avant-garde composer, and author. A member of the Order of Canada, a Polaris Music Prize and JUNO Award winner and the recipient of multiple honorary doctorates, Tagaq is an original disruptor, a world-changing figure at the forefront of seismic social, political, and environmental change. Tagaq’s bestselling, award-winning debut novel, Split Tooth, has been translated into German and French. Tagaq has collaborated and recorded with Saul Williams, Kronos Quartet, Bjork, A Tribe Called Red, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Fucked Up and more. She has composed pieces for the Kronos Quartet and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and created a sound installation for the National Maritime Museum in London. Tagaq has performed at international festivals including Dark Mofo, Bonnaroo, Big Ears, the Helsinki Festival, Aarhus and many more, as well as at venues such as the Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center.