It’s 2009, Christmas is just around the corner, and Charlene Nerysoo wants to send a message to her friend Deborah, saying she’s home and wants Deborah to come over for a cup of tea.
But instead of phoning, she decides to send a message out over the airwaves of CBQM.
That message was immortalized in the documentary CBQM, by Dennis Allen. Now, Allen’s 2009 documentary is being screened at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton as part of their Orange Shirt Day celebrations.
Growing up in Inuvik, Allen had no idea there was a tiny radio station 115 kilometres to the south.
That was until he was on a hunting trip with friends from Fort McPherson.
“They got this squawky little radio and, it was old time Country and Western music was playing, and it was like ‘Holy Man.’ It brought me back 40 years ago, when we used to listen to the radio when we were kids, when we were out in the bush. All we had was the radio. It was a treat to listen to the radio.”
Years later, Allen decided to make a documentary film about the radio station. The film is available for free on the National Film Board Website.
The film weaves footage of the announcers on air with scenes of average Fort McPherson residents tuning in. As the film shows, CBQM is more than just entertainment: As Allen explains, it’s also a way for residents to communicate with each other. “In McPherson, at that time anyways, while we were shooting the film, they were using the using the radio like people used to visit one another, a long time ago, all the time.”
With 14 years gone by, some of the announcers in the film have passed on: This includes Neil Colin, known as “The Mouth of the Peel,” who was known for his humour and stories.
Allen, who has since moved on from filmmaking, says it’s still nice to get recognition for his work. “When someone like the Telus World of Science recognizes all the work and effort might put into making this film, and not only that, but acknowledging Indigenous people and putting the word Reconciliation into work, actually reconciling with people and featuring a film about the North by a Northerner, for southern audiences, people who’ve never been north or they don’t understand the North or the people, it’s a good opportunity to build bridges.”
CKLB reached out to CBQM, but no one was available to comment by publication time.
“CBQM” screens at the Telus World of Science IMAX Theatre in Edmonton on Saturday at 11:00 a.m.