Producer Cara Marcous gives us an inside look at the inspiration behind the season finale of FUTURESTATES, Children of the Northern Lights, which is available to stream for free at futurestates.tv and on pbs.org.
Watch Children of the Northern Lights | June 5 on FUTURESTATES on PBS. See more from FutureStates.
Writer and director Andrew MacLean drew his original inspiration for the film from a traditional Iñuit legend of the same name, whose ideas had always resonated with him. The legend is about a hunter who comes in contact with a group of mysterious children who are pillaging his food stores. He thinks they are thieves. He eventually discovers that the children are actually the spirits of the Northern Lights, beings drawn from the stillborn children of his people and they are starving. The hunter is moved by the struggle of these spirits and resolves to focus his hunting on finding sustenance for them. Ultimately, he is able to nourish them, but does not have enough food to feed himself, so he sacrifices his own life for the children’s – and for the vitality and beauty of the Northern Lights.
Andrew felt a natural connection between this story and his own interest in how we balance the needs and priorities of the individual with those of humanity. Through FUTURESTATES, he saw that dilemma in the context of resource exploitation and colonization, and how that might play out in our not-too-distant future.
Although the film itself is obviously quite different from the legend, their shared foundation is clear. The moral questions that the hunter’s situation presents are similar to the conflicts that our lead character grapples with in the film. Should the things that I personally value be more important to me than the things that are valuable to an entire community? Is the answer to that question the same if it is my community or someone else’s? How much will I sacrifice for what I think is right and how much should humanity or any one society sacrifice for what is right?