Laurie Rousseau-Nepton and Justine Giroux at the top of the Mauna Kea observatory. | NFB

Now Streaming: North Star Mixes Science and Storytelling

NFB series looks to the stars with Innu researcher Laurie Rousseau-Nepton

3 mins read

Quebec-born Innu scientist Laurie Rousseau-Nepton looks to the sky in North Star. Released today for streaming from the NFB, the five-part documentary series observes the resident astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. Rousseau-Nepton gazes upward from the base of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano and studies the stars via a mix of the old and the new. Cutting edge technology affords the astronomer some of the best views of the celestial bodies anyone could see, while the tales of Innu oral storytelling traditions guide her research. Directed by Patrick Bossé, North Star traces Rousseau-Nepton’s journey, following her to the Ashuapmushuan Wildlife Reserve to learn more about her roots. The doc also visits her in Hawaii to observe the researcher in her element. The series considers how past, present, and future align in Rousseau-Nepton’s research and how her grasp for her Innu heritage informs work that will endure for generations.

“I often say that’s where my sense of observation comes from. When you’re out hunting, you spend time looking around for clues to the presence of an animal. You use everything at your disposal, including strength in numbers—your family,” said Rousseau-Nepton in a conversation with Bossé. “You’re also mindful of the traces you might leave behind. That approach is very close to the scientific method, and maybe even closer to the approach we use in astronomy—that is, to gather all available information about celestial objects so as to better understand them, and to work with a number of collaborators.”

 

Advancing Women in Science

North Star also shows how Rousseau-Nepton passes her knowledge down to another generation of women scientists. One thread in the series explores her relationship with intern Justine Giroux. Beyond working together, sharing research, and finding themselves united by questions of what’s out there, Rousseau-Nepton and Giroux take the opportunity to reflect upon the under-representation of women in science, particularly astronomy.

“I realized that she defies all kinds of stubbornly entrenched stereotypes about science,” Bossé added, reflecting upon what drew him to Rousseau-Nepton as a subject. “First, she’s a young woman in a field that’s still very male-dominated. She’s very active but very grounded as well. She’s very involved in the community. She’s interested in the local Hawaiian culture. And with her Innu background, she draws inspiration from Ancestral Knowledge of astronomy.”

The series ends with Rousseau-Nepton sharing her stories, research, and passion with a group of students. She’s a born storytelling and the kids’ eyes twinkle with curiosity and wonder. One sees the stars reflected back as the listen to her tales.

 

Watch North Star here from the NFB.

 

 

 

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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