I had the opportunity to chat with Francis Luta, award-winning filmmaker, about his new documentary feature film, Alone Across the Arctic. Releasing in April all across Canada his feature focuses on Adam Shoalts, a modern day explorer. Thank you to Francis Luta for answering all of my questions.
Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. I went to a Catholic high school, and if you were a boy who weren’t on the basketball team you were pretty much an outsider. I excelled in the arts but I was also a mirage because I was almost never there which pissed off my Art teacher. I went on to School of Design to focus on what I believed I was good at. I excelled in that too and graduated as one of the top students of my year. After college I lived in Berlin Germany to live my frugal artist lifestyle fantasy. Rent was cheap there ten years ago (2010) and so I was able to get-by. I worked for an art collective in Neukölln which was basically Little Turkey. I also worked for two art galleries as their in-house graphic designer—putting my college learnings to use. In my spare time I was singing lead for a three-piece band, but we only got as far as performing within the walls of our rehearsal space at Berliner Rockhaus. I returned to Toronto a year later, feeling lost but managed to get a gig at another art gallery as their art director/graphic designer. I took that opportunity to focus on my own pieces and eventually curated my first-ever solo art show which was put up at a bar on Queen Street east. All the while I would use any excuse to create videos out of nothing because I believed it was my true passion. So I started small, from travel videos to short films to eventually casting real actors for my short films that I wrote, produced, directed and edited. It got more and more serious and with the help of my life-partner Jeremy, I was able to usher my way into the industry and started presenting myself as an up-and-coming filmmaker. It took a while to call myself an Artist and it’s certainly taking me a while to call myself a Filmmaker.
How would you describe Alone Across the Arctic?
An honest, indie film about intense focus and passion for the great Canadiana backdrop. It’s a film that was born out of blood, sweat and tears, literally. From the expedition itself down to the filmmaking aspect. It is unlike any other adventure film you’ve seen before. You get to see Northern Canada from a solo adventurer’s perspective as if you were there with him. You get to witness the land of the Arctic as it was in 2017 and quickly realize that it is forever changing due to the permafrost melting underneath Dempster Highway in the Yukon Territory, which is the only road to get up to the Arctic circle. The very road we took to drop Adam off to begin his trek. There are also plans to create nine new mines and a highway right in the heart of the Arctic that spans two provinces from Northwest Territories to Nunavut, driving north towards Arctic waters. This means Adam’s route by canoe and on foot can never be done again. The most disturbing of all is the lack of care for the disruption of the declining caribou herd all for the sake of mineral development. I’m not saying this is a hyper-environmentally political film but it certainly makes you think how this sacred land of the Canadian Arctic will be changed forever by the time it was made to the time it will become available for the general public to watch.
What inspired this documentary feature?
Adam Shoalts, the explorer, invited me to make a film about his 2017 expedition. Our relationship began in 2015 when we made a short film entitled “Explorer”. With that, he entrusted me to make the feature version. It was a graduation from making short films for sure. Him and I both share that focus and drive to make something out of ourselves, that commitment and consistency towards what we were made to do in this life. I knew it was something I had to do eventhough now that I look back, it was a pretty gutsy thing to do considering I’ve never made a feature before. But it was my opportunity to take.
Have you ever wanted to go on an exploration of your own?
I’ve thought about doing an expedition where I would do the exact opposite of what Adam did: reckless, super emotional, full-on nudity while pulling stunts for the sake of the camera. This is just a fantasy. The kind of exploration I want to do is telling diverse stories that are beyond skin deep—stories that have never been told before.
For my personal life, I would love to continue exploring meditative silence. I’ve done a three-day retreat, but I think I’ve built myself up to do a longer one where I can do an internal exploration of my thoughts of how I can fully flex my full capability physically, artistically, mentally and spiritually.
What do you hope viewers take away from Alone Across the Arctic?
I hope it inspires viewers to realize there is so much more outside of their daily routine bubble. There is a whole world to discover beyond their backyard. The importance to disconnect and reconnect with yourself.
I, myself get caught up in the grind, the race, the social media appearances, the competition—so I have to remind myself to breathe and see the world with my own eyes. It doesn’t have to be an epic, utterly dangerous expedition, it can be as simple as going for a nature walk… While I enjoy adventure, I am also a homebody, so I can attest to the need to realize that spending time in the wilderness is the surest, most direct route to understanding who we are and what we can become. I would love to claim that saying but I got it from Tropical biologist Heather Heying in one of the podcasts I listen to.
When and where can our readers see the feature?
– Toronto Premiere at the Canadian Film Festival on March 25th 2020. For tickets visit www.canfilmfest.ca
– Theatrical Premiere in Cineplex theatres on April 6th 2020. For tickets visit https://ca.demand.film/alone-across-arctic/
– Streaming Release late April onwards. For updates visit www.gravitasventures.com.
Where online can they find you and keep up with Alone Across the Arctic?