Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Fast Runner, The (Atanarjuat) (2001) >>

Think 1000 years ago. Pre-Contact. Pre-"Conquest."
When there was no "America."

View the trailer

View the film

The multi-award-winning Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is the first Inuit-produced, Inuktitut language, feature-length dramatic film. Based on a thousand-year-old Inuit legend, Atanarjuat is the story of the unraveling of the nomadic community of Igloolik when an evil shaman overpowers the legitimate leader and initiates internal discord. The main focus of that discord is a woman, Atuat, who is desired by two men from the opposing camps, Atanarjuat and Oki, who engage in a dramatic skull-banging Inuit ritual. Atanarjuat wins and marries Atuat, but there is absolutely no live-happily-ever-after. Oki is still resentful, and when his sluttish sister seduces Atanarjuat's brother after becoming Atanarjuat's second wife, Oki kills the brother, and Atanarjuat only escapes by running naked miles and miles across the tundra -- in one of the most unique action scenes ever filmed. But Oki is not done -- he rapes Atuat and murders his own father before Atanarjuat returns to confront him. Surprisingly, however, Atanarjuat shuns revenge, proclaims an end to the spiraling violence, and the elders perform an exorcism ritual that restores a badly needed sense of order to the community. The film is designed, according to writer Paul Apak, to offset the effects of colonial paternalism on his people and foster healthy social relationships between Inuit in Igloolik and cultural outsiders. "Atanarjuat is a universal story with emotions people all over the world can understand," adds director Zacharias Kunuk, "It is also totally Inuit: a story we all heard as children, told and acted by Inuit."