Up North
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
Review by Ross Anthony

You might expect a film with the words "fast and runner" in the title to clip along fairly swiftly. I did. Well, let's just say you can benefit from my error. This is a slow paced film - tribal life slow. And there's very little running, though one long dash is rather pivotal to the story.

The most striking mark of the film is its authentic feel. I say "feel" because I have never lived in an Inuit tribe, still it's my "feel" that this film is incredibly authentic. From skinning flesh off animal hides, to keeping the seal oil burning, to carving snow igloo blocks, to fur coats, to the clicking native tongue. In fact, I'd had assumed they'd just recruited these tribal people for the film and through miraculous direction or some kind of "video" innocence captured the purity of their natural reactions.

The film's ending credits, however, reveal the reality of the performance: video cameras, sound-personnel and actors and actress, all Inuit, but not necessarily tent/igloo dwellers. High praise must be given to the direction and acting that made it all feel not just real, but truly authentic.

That said, this 4000-year-old folk tale of love, community, betrayal, and murder takes nearly half the film to compel and by then you might be just a tad antsy. And clocking in at 2.75 hours, with many an indulgently lengthy cut, you may be sighing for a wrap up.

At times endearing, humorous, spooky, educational, but at other times as bland as a block of snow. Make sure you pack the right mood to this one.

Shot in digital video, interior night scenes lit by burning seal oil create a haunting mood in orange sepia. Exteriors don't reproduce so well, but the actors provide a great contrast to all that blaring white snow with their rich color, costume and character.

  • Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Copyright © 2002.
  • Starring Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ivalu, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Lucy Tulugarjuk, Pakkak Innukshuk, Madeline Ivalu, Pauloosie Qulitalik.
  • Directed by Zacharias Kunuk.
  • Screenplay by Paul Apak Angilirq.
  • Produced by Paul Apak Angilirq, Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk at Igloolik Isuma Prods.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:21:38 PDT