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  • Brandon MacMurray

Apayauq Review

Apayauq, dir. Zeppelin Zeerip

Chances are, you grew up hearing about the Iditarod or some form of its history, whether it be through classes at school or, in my case, from watching Balto on VHS. The Iditarod is an iconic dog sled race that traverses 938 miles and is held annually in Alaska, traveling from Anchorage to Nome. It not only commemorates many traditions in dog sled mushing, including the famous 1925 serum run seen in Balto, but is also a highly competitive event that tests the best sled dog mushers to their limit across rough terrain and freezing temperatures.

Apayauq follows subject Apayauq Reitan’s journey to become the first out transgender woman to compete in this legendary race. The short gets personal right from the start as it shows the moment Apayauq takes the first injection of her transition. It’s a brilliant decision in filmmaking as it allows the viewer to instantly form a connection with her, as she shows one of her most exciting and vulnerable moments. In 2019 Apayauq competed in the Iditarod under her assigned gender at birth. In 2022, she will be competing as the first out transgender woman.

“I didn’t decide to be a woman, I decided to listen to myself”

Apayauq very eloquently explains her thoughts on gender and society with this quote. As names in Apayauq’s culture are gender-neutral, she was named after her great-grandma, a fact she's proud of. Apayauq has also embraced many of the cultural traditions for woman, exemplified by her face tattoo.

As the race starts, it's heartwarming to see the embrace of the community around her cheering as she sets off and the announcement using her correct pronouns as she sleds by with her transgender pride flag. As she is off in the race the vastness and beauty of the rugged landscape is beautifully captured through a mix of first person shots from the view of the dog sled to expansive drone shots from above.

As the days of the race go up and miles to Nome tick down, the short does an excellent job showing the logistics of the race and the problems that may arise during it. The time spent during the race is blended with commentary from Apayauq on mental health issues and transgender issues such as how transgender woman are portrayed by the media.

Apayauq is a wonderful soul and impossible not to root for in this short. The short ends with a series of powerful self-reflections and revelations as she approaches the finish. She has an optimism that shines through:

“They way you get to Nome is to just get to the next checkpoint, that’s how I think about life as well.”

Whether partaking in a legendary race or trying to just get to the next day in life, that advice from Apayauq, though simple, offers a great reminder to just take life one step at a time.

Review by: Brandon MacMurray



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