When communicating advances in research and study to a mass audience, taking your audience to places they have never been has always proven most effective.
When Dr. Chris Furgal, an associate professor with Trent University’s Indigenous Environmental Studies program, and his colleagues, decided to share the findings of their extensive research on the relationships between environmental change, marine fats and Inuit health, they decided on the production of a documentary. The result was Utsuk: A Story of Fat, a documentary that outlines key aspects of the team’s research while exploring the value of the relationship that exists for Inuit, and other Indigenous peoples, between their health and that of their environment through their connection with foods harvested from both land and sea.
“In our early discussions about the research program and its various components, we identified the desire to do something more than only publish journal articles for the academic community,” explains Professor Furgal, who is also the co-founder/director of the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments.
“My sense is that storytelling of any form can do a great service to communicating the relevance of, and learning from, our research to a broader audience. Particularly for topics or regions which few have the chance to access, experience or see for themselves, video can be a powerful tool. Hopefully, the communication of this issue in the form of a video, highlighting the importance of Indigenous perspectives and knowledge, will help this information reach a larger number of people than were it to be solely communicated through traditional academic pathways.”
As one of three producers of UTSUK: A Story of Fat, Prof. Furgal came away from the experience with “a much greater appreciation” for those who are able to summarize complex research and related issues for a mass media audience. “There is far more involved in it than I ever thought,” he says.