Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

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

1) There are a number of differences between what we are doing and other movies that have been produced regarding our Inuit culture. This movie will be based on an Inuit legend, and also it is all going to be in Inuktitut. And also, all of the actors will have to be Inuk. No Japanese or whoever else who pretend to be Inuit. You know. It will be done the Inuit way. We want things presented in the movie the way they would have happened in real life. That is what we are going to do. (Paul Apak Angilirq)

2) Although there have been several complaints in regards to the poor acting, I feel obligated to attempt to persuade you otherwise. It is pertinent to recall that this film is an Inuit production created in the hopes of revealing their culture. Perhaps what viewers were assuming as a lack of personality or inability to project the appropriate sentiments is in fact an authentic cultural representation. It would be naïve and so completely American of us to believe that their manners of communication would be similar to ours. Or perhaps it was just bad acting . . . (Alexandra Neumann, Lehigh University)

3) When I began to see myself as an Aboriginal person and a filmmaker, I learned there are different ways to tell the same story. People in Igloolik learned through the storytelling who we were and where we came from for four thousand years without a written language. Then foreign missionaries preached Paul’s Epistles to my parents in Inuktitut, saying, “Turn away from your old way of life.” Four thousand years of oral history silenced by fifty years of priests, schools, and cable tv? This death of history is happening in my lifetime. How were shamans tied? Where do suicides go? What will I answer when I’m an elder and don’t know anything about it? Will I have anything to say? Lately, I want to write to the bishop and say, “let my people go!” (Zacharias Kunuk)

4) What struck me most about the movie was the starkness of the cinematography used. To me, the use of this documentary style of filming for a three-hour-long movie creates a number of obstacles for the modern movie viewer who is so accustomed to green-screen footage and expensive lighting, make-up, and sound design. While this style facilitates linking the reel to the real by not dolling up the plot with cinematic trinkets, directing the viewers primary focus to the plot at hand, it also works in the opposite direction, distracting the viewers, as much of the movie plots we follow in this day and age are increasingly enhanced with special visual effects and meticulously composed orchestral scores. As a result of this movie's lacking of the aforementioned, my attention was ironically drawn to this void, a void which, in fact, empowered the use of light and music when it was actually used. (James "Alec" Murphy, Lehigh University)

5) We wanted to show our own culture because it’s always shown stereotyped. There were too many films about the North in which the characters playing Inuit were Japanese. Since Christianity arrived, it was the first time we were trying out shaman scenes. It’s a very touchy subject, a closed subject, so at first our elders were scared but then they started doing it because it’s their culture. Why should they be ashamed of it? (Zacharias Kunuk)

6) Though the film was long, slow at parts, and occasionally difficult to follow due to the extended timeframe over which the story unfolded, I can’t imagine this particular story being filmed in any other way because, in my opinion, to shorten the film, add in flashy special effects and action sequences, employ a non-native cast of professional actors, and film in a location thousands of miles away from Inuit territory would detract from the rawness and beauty captured in the film. (Krystal Kaai, Lehigh University)

7) I remember watching movies with cowboys and Indians and John Wayne and the cavalry. I was watching this movie one evening and John Wayne was my man. We were in the fort and he sent out scouts. I was one of the soldiers, and so we went out and didn't come back. The soldiers were dead, and there were soldiers and horses with arrows in them everywhere. I asked, "What kind of Indians did this?" Because I was thinking like those soldiers. As I got older and saw myself as an aboriginal person, I learned that there's two sides to every story. (Zacharias Kunuk)

8) Not only does Atanarjuat, for example, illustrate "our Inuit way of seeing ourselves," but also, according to its creators, it aims to "convince people that a group of Eskimos from the end of the world could be sophisticated enough to make a movie, to show the global community it might be worth listening to an Inuit voice." (Shari Huhndorf 75)

9) Paul Apak talked and we all changed the ending. In the original story when they are fighting inside the ice igloo, he smashed his head. Paul felt that that doesn't make any sense. That is going to go on and on and on. We also knew that they used to just send people away instead of killing them and that was a better ending so we chose that. He even asked the elders, is it all right to change the end? I remember one of the elders answering him, "We are storytellers.” (Zacharias Kunuk)

10) Atanarjuat reminds us that the mainstream glorification of violence is not necessary to achieve dramatic effects. Within the dominant film world, increasing the degree and amount of represented violence has become almost a litmus test: how many shoot-outs can be fitted into a 90-minute entertainment? This ultimately involves a narrative refusal: rather than working with character or event, more dynamite will create all the drama required. Atanarjuat illustrates how a few people running over the ice can create as much tension and narrative excitement as a multimillion dollar, pyrotechnically enhanced, car chase. It also illustrates something of the violence that violence begets and poses a challenge to the culture that equates revenge with justice. (Peter Kulchyski)

11) As artists we are the myth makers of who we are as a people. We hold these myths in our family stories passed down through time from mothers' tongue to son in our fiction; we hold them in poems and in our music; we hold them in our paintings and in our pottery, in our tapestries and in our sculpture, we hold them in our dance and in our drama, in our photography and in our video. We hold these myths in the work that is inspired by tradition as well as that which is fueled with an urgency to experiment and explore. It is work that comments and work that questions. It is work that explodes with triumph, screams with grief, staggers with wonder, and crumbles with humility. We are the myth makers of who we are as a people and we constantly place and replace that myth into the world. And what we create becomes a part of a vast and diverse vocabulary …instantly familiar in a visceral way, like in our bones and at the very same instant with a very intimate, personal and private connection to the heart. (Ruby Truly)

12) By representing the world as it always was to the Inuit, by refusing to represent the world as the South, with its colonial entanglements, has made it seem to be, the film powerfully challenges this audience to see differently. It works in ways that urge its audience to bracket -— to abandon might be too strong a verb -- its familiar habits of response. (Arnold Krupat)

13) This ending did not come from the variants of a legend that are in common circulation. Apak, Kunuk, Cohn, and the others at Isuma decided on a positive ending because they wanted to emphasize the importance of harmony and working together, a vital Inuit value honed over millennia of cooperation in small bands immersed in a harsh environment. Much of Inuit life is communal, and when someone puts himself above this communal web, he also puts himself outside it. . . . So the producers brought the ending around to a positive note in an effort to emphasize the necessity of placing the group before the individual. (Michael Evans 93-94)

14) To say that the class's reaction to Nanook of the North and The Savage Innocents was largely negative would be stating the obvious. Both movies displayed various cultural inaccuracies and had a tendency to depict the Inuits as simple, inferior, and at times silly. However, if we had watched these movies without having previously seen Atanarjuat, I do not think we would have had such a strong reaction. As most of us already admitted, we had little or no knowledge of Inuit culture before watching Atanarjuat. I think most Americans are in the same position. If those were the only films we watched about the Inuit people, I do not think we would have realized exactly how off-base they are. Without Atanarjuat, we would not have been able to recognize the extent of the filmmaker's manipulation in Nanook or the Hollywood-ization of Innocents. These earlier films only highlight the significance of Atanarjuat and the importance of enabling individual cultures to produce their own films. (Courtney Brown, Lehigh University)

15) But how does an Indian play Indian? Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, Zacharias Kunuk's feature film debut, provides an intriguing opportunity to investigate this question. Despite the widespread critical acclaim it has garnered since its showing at Cannes in 2000, where it won the Camera d'Or, Kunuk's film continues to pose somewhat of a puzzle. Unique among contemporary North American indigenous cinema, both in terms of its subject matter and its formal solutions, the film raises important questions about the possibilities of indigenous self-representation in contemporary multicultural democracies without offering easy answers. (Monika Seibert 532)

16) This story is important to the Inuits, and thus we can see why they would have wanted to make a movie to tell it, much in the same way Disney made Pocahontas. These are stories that seem important to a culture, and thus we can see why they would want to make such a film as a way to carry on the story into the next generation. (William "Tommy" McNulty, Lehigh University)

17) What do Indians want from writing? . . . I suggest that our highest hopes for literacy at this point rest upon a vision we might name rhetorical sovereignty. Sovereignty, of course, has long been a contested term in Native discourse , and its shifting meanings over time attest to an ongoing struggle between Americans and the hundreds of Indian nations that occupy this land. Our claims to sovereignty . . . are nothing less than our attempt to survive and flourish as a people. Sovereignty is the guiding story in our pursuit of self-determination, the general strategy by which we aim to best recover our losses from the ravages of colonization: our lands, our cultures, our self-respect. For indigenous people everywhere, sovereignty is an ideal principle. . . . The pursuit of sovereignty is an attempt to revive not our past, but our possibilities. Rhetorical sovereignty is the inherent right and ability of peoples to determine their own communicative needs and desires in this pursuit, to decide for themselves the goals, modes, styles, and languages of public discourse. (Scott Richard Lyons 449-50)

18) Because of the documentary-style camera, I felt that this was a stream-of-consciousness film trying to fit into the body of a documentary. However, I understand that the filmmakers were trying to make this film as authentic as possible, so they used just a bare camera. This raw style of filming gave it an edginess that made me want to watch the film again, and it made me more open to what I was seeing. (Andrea Espinoza, Lehigh University)

19) As artists bridging the past and future we practice a third way, different from either the Inuit way or the White way, both solitudes separated by centuries of fear and mistrust since Columbus and Frobisher "discovered" the New World. Inuit skills of working together join with southern ideas of community videomaking in a new model of professional production. (Norman Cohn)

20) We just make the film and show it and see if kids are interested in it. And young people are interested. Before, kids were playing Hollywood stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now you see little kids playing Atanarjuat. That's something. I even heard that a kid named his new dog Atanarjuat. I also heard about a man who was babysitting one day while his wife was out working. He lost track of two of his kids, and he found them in a tent playing Atanarjuat. (Zacharias Kunuk, qtd. in Gregoire)

21) After knocking down his nemesis -- the group's ringleader who is both a murderer and rapist -- Atanarjuat raises a bone club and strikes. Except instead of the evil man's skull, he smashes the ice just next to it. Atanarjuat exclaims, "The killing stops now!" -- proving that he could have taken revenge but chose not to do so. Thus we are meant to believe that a 1,000-year-old Inuit myth of lust, betrayal and violence climaxes with a surprisingly pacifistic turn. I just didn't buy it. Knowing some basic world myths, I was expecting vengeance akin to Odysseus' bow-and-arrow heroics during his homecoming. Moreover, in a society such as the Inuit's -- one without laws, police or prisons -- violent retribution would have not only been highly likely, it also might have been justified. (Jason Shubow)

22) Perhaps the most significant aspect of an entirely Inuit-production like Atanarjuat is the way in which the film enables the Inuit people to leave their mark on history, portrayed not as stereotyped entities of an antiquated age, but as the thriving culture that still exists today. (Krystal Kaai, Lehigh University)

23) This film invited all participants -- all viewers -- into a healing ceremony. . . . It is a full healing, completed by "female" and "male" together. The world -- contemporary or ancient, it doesn't matter -- is again whole. (Patricia Hilden)

24) Title card: In deference to Nanook, the great hunter, the trader entertains and attempts to explain the principle of the gramaphone -- how the white man "cans" his voice. (Nanook of the North)

25) Flaherty [Nanook of the North] filmed to preserve; Kunuk films to revive. The sense of what has been lost connects both films, and it mocks the idea of pristine culture, even if we as viewers and the Inuit as film-makers crave it. If not pristine, then what? Well, the film has a sort of authenticity that may be worth more. It has the knowledge, the little details of life that only come from living in such a harsh place and were never lost. The shamanism may be researched, but the way that a man puts water on his sled runners to make them icy and smooth is lived experience. This has the beauty of real life. (Paul Byrnes)

26) Far from depicting the Inuit as "contained by the ideological assumption of disappearance," Atanarjuat compels modern viewers to reassess the stereotypes established in Nanook of the North—a form of "reel" history that, for too long, has been mistaken as a "real" portrayal of Inuit life. (Krystal Kaai, Lehigh University)

27) Think of it as a cross between a cave drawing and an Elizabethan revenge play. (Eleanor Ringle Gillespie)

28) Atanarjuat is so elemental in its means yet so cosmic in its drama, it could herald a rebirth of cinema. (J. Hoberman)

29) I like the point about the subtitles highlighting the fact that the viewer is on the outside looking in. In contrast to Nanook of the North where the outsider intrusively came into the society and attempted to bring others with him through the use of film, the directors of Antanarjuat carefully crafted the viewer's experience to consist of inclusion enough for education but exclusion to an extent that reminds the viewer that he/she is watching rather than participating. Such an idea diminishes the importance of Huhndorf's point about the irony of broadcasting the Inuit culture through means created and used by those whom they're trying to educate--the Inuits may be subject to "southern" invention and technology, but that doesn't allow the "southerners" to lay claim to the intellectual property or, to use the term from class, "visual sovereignty" of the Inuit culture. (Kelsey Cannon, Lehigh University)

30) Sealskin and polar bear skin clothing adorned with intricate embroidery; sleds and kayaks fashioned from caribou bone, skin, and ligament; and snow-block igloos were all reconstructed in the traditional manner. These objects, along with the film's attention to details large and small--from the landscapes of women's tattooed faces to the physiognomy of an eastern Arctic uninterrupted by any signs of alternate economies--help the feature succeed as a premodern Inuit epic. (Monika Seibert 534)

31) The image that stays with you is of Atanarjuat trying to escape an attack on his life, leaping from his tent and running naked across the ice like a newborn gazelle bursting from its mother's womb. (Ron Weiskind)

32) I discovered that the original legend ends -- to use the words of Norman Cohn, one of the film's producers -- "with everybody's brains all over the floor." I asked Zacharias Kunuk, the film's director, whether the movie alters the Inuit myth. "The only thing that we changed was the ending," he said. "In the actual story Atanarjuat smashes [the villains'] heads." Explaining the decision, he said, "Every generation has their version. It was a message more fitting for our times. Killing people doesn't solve anything." (Jason Shubow)

33) Shamanism is still a very touchy subject in my area. My parents are very religious and Christian, but when you start to think about it, you start to think about this 4,000-year history, and in the last 50 years, 75 years maybe, people became Christian and become from top of the food chain to the bottom of the food chain. Doesn't really make sense. As I get older, I start to think how come we dump our religion for this new religion. You start to ask about it and they say, "Oh, our old religion had hundred taboos. We traded them for Ten Commandments." And then you start to think, well, these Ten Commandments come from "thou shalt not kill, love thy neighbor," and you look at the Middle East and that's not just it. (Zacharias Kunuk, qtd. in Movshovitz)

34) There are three murders, two sex scenes, a rape, man runs naked for his life across the ice being chased by three guys who are trying to kill him. It's told entirely from the point of view of people that we've all believed never even had a point of view, in a wilderness that we've all believed was this kind of howling, terrifying wilderness, and here these people are like masters of the universe and it looks like a paradise. So everything is inverted. (Norman Cohn, qtd. in Movshovitz)

35) Thus, even as indigenous media challenge global histories of colonialism and the power of nation-states, they simultaneously risk reinforcing the representational practices and political structures of the dominant societies. (Shari Huhndorf 77)

36) I don’t think you can make a good film of the love affairs of the Eskimo . . . because they never show much feeling in their faces, but you can make a very good film of Eskimos spearing a walrus.
(Robert Flaherty, qtd. in Raheja)

37) The theme of [revenge violence] is so dominant in mainstream films that the notion that justice demands revenge is steeped in contemporary culture. This not-accidental cultural motif is what allows an attack on Iraq as a commonsensical response to the 9/11 events. (Peter Kulchyski)

38) There is little question that [filmmaker Robert] Flaherty falsified many of the events depicted in Nanook, and through his framing, editing, and reenactments invented a place and a people suspended in time, isolated from modernity. Yet some of the responsibility might also lie with Western viewers who have, over the years, collaborated with filmmakers in the process of constructing a social framework of belief in the authenticity of documentary. . . . Meanings produced by cinematic texts are the products of social, and not purely individual determinants. Still, the uniqueness of Flaherty's technical and narrative achievement cannot be isolated from the film's problematic cultural and racial stereotyping. (Geiger and Rutsky)

39) In making The Fast Runner, [director] Kunuk, [cinematographer] Cohn and their team of collaborators were determined to create a film that would appeal to both Inuit audiences and outsiders. The filmmakers had to give viewers a new "mental and visual vocabulary" so that they could understand the ancient Inuit culture that The Fast Runner painstakingly recreates. Cohn says that even though the film "is not an educational film, it has to educate people how to watch." "Then you realize," he continues, "that what you're watching is a culture that communicates by watching. So all of a sudden the way in which you're watching is actually culturally appropriate. And just as you're starting to think, 'Even though this is a really foreign culture and I don't understand a word these people are saying, I sort of do understand what's going on.' Then the film takes off." (Jason Anderson)

40) One of the filmmakers' motivations for producing The Fast Runner was to remedy false depictions of the Inuit in prior films. And yet the altered climax is an inaccurate portrayal of Inuit culture: The original ending of the legend precisely matches what anthropologists report about premodern Inuit -- that murder always required blood vengeance. I asked Kunuk whether he was concerned that the ending would create misconceptions about the Inuit. "No, not really," he replied. "Other people could do the same, could film their own version of the myth." Yet for most viewers, The Fast Runner is likely to represent their lone exposure to the legend -- and perhaps to all of Inuit culture. It would be as if a student spent only one day learning about Norse mythology and was told that the gods and giants peacefully resolved their differences instead of mutually destroying each other. (Jason Shubow)

41) Someone would rather lend his wife than his sled. You lend your sled, it comes back cracked. You lend your knife, it comes back dull. You lend your dogs, they come back tired and crawling. But, if you love your wife, no matter how often you lend her, she always comes back like new. . . . When you come to a strange land, you should bring your wives and not your laws. (The Savage Innocents)

42) The image projected in Atanarjuat's outtakes--the image, that is, of self-empowered indigenous communities believably performing their past--hardly functions as a critique of the multiculturalist brands of cultural and political colonization. It is, rather, a necessary corollary to those projects. Atanarjuat cannot help but become complicit in Canada's nation-building and global self-promotion. (Monika Siebert 544)

43) If Homer had been given a video camera, this is what he would have done. (qtd. by Margaret Atwood)

44) The visual, particularly film, video, and new media is a germinal and exciting site for exploring how sovereignty is a creative act of self-representation that has the potential to both undermine stereotypes of indigenous peoples and to strengthen what Robert Warrior has called the "intellectual health" of communities in the wake of genocide and colonialism. (Michelle Raheja 1161)

45) By telling a seminal Inuit legend in an uniquely "Inuit way," Atanarjuat exercises visual sovereignty as a means to accomplish two main objectives: first, to dispel stereotypes about the Inuit people and challenge modern audiences to reassess the way in which they think about indigenous people in general and Inuit people more specifically; and, secondly, to preserve and perpetuate the Inuit culture through a visual form of storytelling accessible to both Inuit and non-Inuit audiences. (Krystal Kaai, Lehigh University)

46) I am not surprised that "The Fast Runner" has been a box office hit in its opening engagements. It is unlike anything most audiences will ever have seen, and yet it tells a universal story. What's unique is the patience it has with its characters: The willingness to watch and listen as they reveal themselves, instead of pushing them to the front like little puppets and having them dance through the story. "The Fast Runner" is passion, filtered through ritual and memory. (Roger Ebert)

47) Viewing Atanarjuat for the first time is like being parachuted into Igloolik and left to fend for oneself. There's no scene setting, no explicatory voiceover, none of the comforting crutches contemporary myth-makers often think their audiences need. Instead we're simply placed in close proximity to the characters, and invited to observe, attend, be open. The unhurried style of the storytelling reflects the rhythms of Arctic life, as distinct from the accelerated pace of the industrial world and its entertainments. (S. F. Said)

48) The film "is as close as you get to an Inuit story," [director] Kunuk says, "This is as real as it gets." A look at the altered ending shows precisely just what close means in an avowedly historical film and precisely how the reel almost unavoidably makes the real. (Haydn Galloway, Lehigh University)

49) There is . . . another way of reading the pivotal scene in which the character of Nanook encounters the trader at the fur trading post. As I have noted, his laugh, directed alternately at the trader and, through the camera, at the viewer, is usually read as a marker of his childishness and his deference to white authority. In “Nanook Revisited,” Charles Nayoumealuk reports that "each time a scene was shot, as soon as the camera was starting to shoot, he [Allakariallak, playing Nanook] would burst out laughing. He couldn’t help it. Flaherty would tell him, ‘be serious.’ But he couldn’t do it. He laughed each time." Perhaps, he suggests, Allakariallak was actually laughing at Flaherty -- at his peculiar requests and his odd scripting of the scene -- and, through Flaherty, at the expectations of the non-Native viewers. While the final chapter of Arctic colonialism remains to be written, perhaps the last word -- and the last laugh -- will be his. (Shari Huhndorf)

50) Legends such as this one infuse Inuit culture with interpretations of events, lessons about morality and social responsibility, and ideas about how to live and thrive in the Arctic. But most of the world knows about the Inuit not through their legends and stories but through southern depictions of life in the North -- portrayals that often position the Inuit not as wise and resourceful but as savage and primitive. Or backward and unable to adapt to the changing world. Or silly and happy-go-lucky. Or irrelevant or simply non-existent. In the face of these depictions in literature and in film, increasing numbers of Inuit artists are offering counterpoints that show the richness, depth, and genius inherent in Inuit culture. One such group is Igloolik Isuma Productions, and its most influential film so far is based on the Atanarjuat legend. (Michael Robert Evans xv)

51) It's like swimming in illuminated milk. (Andrew O'Hehir)

52) Let's give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that their decision to change the ending was likely motivated by good intentions. "Our film warns against extreme chauvinism," Cohn told The San Francisco Examiner. "It articulates as clearly as possible the price of embracing vengeance. The logical conclusion of vengeance is that we're all going to die." But could it be that the filmmakers weren't consciously aware of all the reasons for the changes they made? That the villains are not only spared in the movie but are actually forgiven by the mother of the rape victim suggested to me the influence of Christianity, which missionaries brought to the formerly shamanist Inuit. In fact, noting that shamanism has been "a very touchy subject" since the introduction of Christianity, Kunuk told me that the Inuit community had qualms about depicting its former religion on screen: "Everybody wants to go to heaven," he said. "Everyone now knows there is hell." Asked whether the altered ending -- and specifically its emphasis on forgiveness -- represented the influence of a Christian worldview, Kunuk paused briefly. "Probably, probably," he replied. (Jason Shubow)

53) For indigenous viewers all across the world, Atanarjuat is a very special gift from Kunuk to Inuit people, from Kunuk to all of us carrying the lenses we inherit when born into the Red Zone. (Patricia Hilden)

54) A good story is a good story. In a time of decadent visual clutter, the stark beauty of these Arctic landscapes is bracing. I happened to see this the same day as "Attack of the Clones." It was like tasting a juicy barbecued steak after microwaved frozen fast food. Pure cinematic protein. (David Ansen)

55) As a collective, Igloolik Isuma Productions arrives at the millennium practising respectful cooperation as a formal element of our media art. We implant these values -- our collective process -- in our filmmaking practice; community support and participation are qualities of production we make visible on the screen. (Norman Cohn)

56) Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is well positioned to serve the needs of the Canadian national cinema developing in the age of multiculturalism. Inuit video and film productions, along with other work by minority filmmakers, contribute to an ongoing Canadian effort to shape a national cinema by locating Canada's diverse communities within the imagined national community. (Monika Siebert 547)

57) The final sequence [the end credits] of the film [reveals] the technology of film production and [emphasizes] the "modernity" of contemporary Inuit. The spell is deliberately broken in order to send an important political message: Inuit are not only "then," they are "now." (Peter Kulchyski)

58) The conceptualization of the north through southern eyes is of an undifferentiated frozen mass sparsely populated by a vanishing primitive people characterized by a life of humorless grim survival. What the film demonstrates is the complexity of culture as lived practice and the differentiation of characters in contrast to the dominant stereotype of either noble or blood thirsty savage, in either case contained by the ideological assumption of disappearance. (Darrell Varga 228-29)

59) What makes this story more compelling is the vast landscape juxtaposed to the small size of the tribal units. This makes every person in the tribe that much more important, and when romantic tensions arise, and tragedy strikes, they affect everyone. (Victor Cumberbatch, Lehigh University)

60) The aesthetics of radical decontextualization emphasize this discourse of cultural disappearance. The anthologizers of Inuit song present the songs in spare forms, as if they exist independently from the storytelling exchange or other social context. . . . The "Inuit voice" becomes monumentalized, static, transhistorical. It is not considered part of a dialogue but becomes showcased as an icon from the past. . . . It is this decontextualization of Inuit oral traditions that the filmmakers of Atanarjuat are determined to challenge and reverse. (Sophie McCall)

61) At a deeper level, what is more troubling is this "Joseph Campbell like" understanding of mythology. While Campbell did much to popularize an understanding of myth, he also reduced it to the hackneyed story of The Hero, the myth of the modern male-existentialist loner. And of course myth is much greater than this. Myths are stories that give meaning to our lives, revealing to us something of our understanding of the ultimate order of things. At bottom, Atanarjuat is a pastiche focussed around yet another Brown saviour figure, this time sadly constructed by a colonized people. Like Jesus and Hercules before him, Atanarjuat is another humiliated king. He is a hero of humble birth. Unlike the traditional Christian Jesus, he is married (twice yet) and sexually active. However, like the Jesus understood by most Christians, Atanarjuat eschews violence. He runs from his attackers (the murderers of his brother) rather than face to fight them. He suffers great physical pain and bleeds, albeit from the feet alone and not the hands. However, at the end, Atanarjuat does what colonizers want Brown saviours like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, or Nelson Mandela to do: he lives out the gospel of non-violence. The evil ones are not killed, but only banished. That this Brown saviour is constructed by other Brown people is what is most troubling. (Amir Hussain)

62) By the time Robert Flaherty released his widely acclaimed and now classic documentary Nanook of the North in 1922, the American public was hooked on tales of Eskimos and Arctic life. Nanook of the North became a kind of watershed, the point after which no imagining of the Far North was without the full panoply of stereotypes born in the later nineteenth century, developed in the 1900s and 1910s, and brought to fruition in Flaherty’s work. (Shari Huhndorf 124)

63) title card: The sterility of the soil and the rigor of the climate no other race could survive; yet here, utterly dependent upon animal life, which is their sole source of food, live the most cheerful people in all the world -- the fearless, lovable, happy-go-lucky Eskimo. (Nanook of the North 3:05)

64) It helps going in to the film to know a couple of things. First, this is not a "made-up" story any more than Homer would have said the Iliad was made up. . . . Second, a new-born child was thought to be a re-incarnation of someone who'd died. . . . Third, spirits are all around. They can confer extra strength, and they can enter into people and make them behave badly. . . . But they can be mastered to some extent by shamans. . . . Fourth, it was forbidden for a woman to speak to or even look at her brother-in-law. That's why the bad sex scene between the wayward second wife of the hero and the hero's brother isn't just any old roll in the fur. It's really bad. Fifth, there are various kinds of strength . . . by the position of leadership . . . by shamanistic power. And finally, there's moral authority. . . . the ultimate moral authority resides with the elders. (Margaret Atwood)

65) In his references to Flaherty's film Nanook, Kunuk uses the strategy of subversive quotation. (Kerstin Knopf 213)

66) I thought that I didn't connect with the movie at all -- I actually found it rather painstaking and confusing in the beginning. It wasn't until Atanarjuat's relationship with Puja began that I was really engaged in the film. Now, I don't have a grand love triangle sob story, but I found that I identified with Atuat in the moment that Atanarjuat's father suggested he take along "Sauri's girl" as a companion on his Caribu hunt. I found myself wanting Atanarjuat's character to be above such temptation -- to suffer the loneliness and boredom of solitude for the dignity of his wife and marriage. Though my later life experiences tell me to expect the worst, I still can't seem to abandon the values instilled in me by the Disney Princess era. (Kelsey Cannon, Lehigh University)

67) Title card: The shrill piping of the wind, the rasp and hiss of driving snow, the mournful wolf howls of Nanook's master dog typify the melancholy spirit of the North. (Nanook of the North)

68) But Angilirq rewrote the story for a modern audience. "Paul Angilirq changed that story because now we are in the modern age and because killing doesn't solve anything," Kunuk says. (DeNeen L. Brown)

69) On top of the world, nearer to the North Pole than to any civilized area, there live numbers of a singular race of nomads. They are so proud that they call themselves simply the Men. We in turn call these people Eskimos, meaning "eaters of raw flesh." And in the age of the atom bomb they still hunt with bow and arrow. They share whatever they own. And they are so crude, they don't know how to lie. In this region of eternal ice, it is not yet decided whether man or bear is crown of creation. But, as plentiful as are the bear, so the women are scarce. And this man, Inuk, does not have a woman of his own. For a long time he has known the importance of a wife to give orders to, one who would sew his garments, make his mittens, mend his boots, and laugh with him, which means the same as making love. An important factor when the third of the year is night. (The Savage Innocents)

70) [Mel] Gibson’s intense focus [in Apocalypto] on the violence perpetrated by one faction of indigenous people over another tends to give later colonization movements, from the Spanish into the Americas to the English in Australia to U.S. policies based on manifest destiny, a pass. (Stephen Spence 498)

71) Although this film afforded me nearly every bit of information I now have about Inuits, it also affirmed the suspicion that there is not much depth to their culture. This is no fault of their own; it must be difficult to worry about anything other than necessities when dealing with Arctic conditions. However, as it has been depicted, the Inuits' culture is essentially hunter-gatherer. It is based on finding food, reproducing, building shelter, and very little else. Something I found myself wondering during the film is, because of this reason, this "lack" of cultural depth or variation, why anyone would want to live in this culture. Perhaps they had no choice, no way to escape, but if they DID have that ability (like the ability to migrate to a more "civilized" culture in land that isn't snow-covered), why wouldn't they go? Although I cannot empathize with their cultural pride (being American and thus probably the furthest thing from Inuit), it was nonetheless difficult to grasp the idea that one would choose, much less pride themselves on, a culture such as the Inuits'. (Brian Cohen, Lehigh University)

72) And yet—this is an imagined narrative on my part—perhaps Kunuk, secure in the knowledge that he has produced a film fully validated by his own people and likely to be appreciated on its own terms by some few outsiders, occupying, as well, a promising sociopolitical position in Nunavut, perhaps he can feel perfectly comfortable about inviting the good will and approbation of all those many viewers who might flock to the film only if they are granted permission or even encouraged to translate it into their own comfort zones. Why not, after all; let them go on clueless, if they wish! (Arnold Krupat)

73) As a tale of bad spirits and possessed/psychotic killers that takes place in the snow-covered middle of nowhere, this film felt like an Inuit take on The Shining. Obviously the budgets of these two films could scarcely be further apart; yet Atanarjuat was often capable of inspiring the same feelings of fear and wonder that I derived from viewing Kubrick’s work. (Eric Edgerton, Lehigh University)

74) Its epic immensity is given visual expression through an awesome sense of place. . . . These images establish the context within which the myth's characters operate and in relation to which their deeds and values must be judged. They suggest, without words, the Inuit perspective on the proper relationship between humanity and the earth: one which requires respect, resourcefulness and inexhaustible patience. . . . The scale and harshness of the environment enforce proximity on human groups, and this too is reflected in the film's texture. Its interiors . . . are as tightly packed as the exteriors are empty, the spaces between people highly charged. (S. F. Said)

75) If self-representation is itself an act of authority, it is also, as Ginsburg contends, "part of a broader project of cultural resistance and transformation" that enables indigenous people "to articulate and enhance their own histories, political concerns, and cultural practices." In the face of Canadian Inuit, the use of media has facilitated cultural revivals and the sense of common history that culminated in the founding of Nunavut (Shari Huhndorf 83)

76) It makes us feel again as we did when we were children, wide-eyed in the dark, hearing one of the great stories for the first time; mythic visions that put new pictures in our heads, moved our hearts and changed the way the world looked ever after. (S. F. Said)

77) "'National Geographic' hosts Greek tragedy in the Arctic tundra." (James Verniere)

78) For the people of the community out of which this film emerged, it will be what they have lacked for so many years: a validation of their roots. (Margaret Atwood)

79) During our two hour conversation, Paul Apak Angilirq also spoke of his aspirations to produce with his colleagues a screenplay that would be accessible to a more mainstream, movie-going audience -- to create a film that would not only communicate cultural knowledge, but also offset the effects of colonial paternalism on his people and foster healthy social relationships between Inuit in Igloolik and cultural outsiders. (Nancy Wachowich)

80) What we have, then, is an illustration of a terribly vicious circle: the need to perform cultural difference in order to gain recognition precipitates official incorporation into the state and its capitalist economy; and this incorporation in turn results in the erasure of any meaningful difference (that is, difference in social and economic arrangements) behind the screen of this performed difference. (Monika Siebert 548-49)

81) But I did see that if I were to take a single character and make him typify the Eskimos as I had known them so long and well, the results would be well worth while. . . . As soon as I showed them some of the first results, Nanook and his crowd were completely won over. . . . Less than two years later I received word that Nanook had ventured into the interior hoping for deer and had starved to death. But our "big aggie" become Nanook of the North has gone into most of the odd corners of the world, and more men than there are stones around the shores of Nanook's home have looked upon Nanook, the kindly, brave, simple Eskimo. (Robert Flaherty)

82) I felt, judging by the look on Atuat's face, that she also wanted Atanarjuat to quickly dismiss the proposal for Puja to join him as a companion on his Caribu hunt, though her quiet -- though begrudging -- acceptance showed she didn't, in fact, expect him to deny the idea. I found this interaction, the one look from Atuat, to speak volumes about what Kunuk and Cohn wanted to convey about the Inuit people -- while they traditionally engaged in practices of polygamy, they did not all necessarily blindly accept such notions. To me, it made Atuat seem more relatable. I read an expression on her face that I've felt countless times in situations that I didn't want to be in (regarding or regardless of personal relationships) yet accepted as unchangeable. It was at this moment that I began to invest myself in the characters of the film, thereby enhancing the remainder of the experience. (Kelsey Cannon, Lehigh University)

83) Atanarjuat challenges the colonialist and racist assumptions that frame the perspective of Flaherty's adventure romance [Nanook of the North]. However, Atanarjuat is not an antiethnographic film. Instead it may be described as a counterethnographic film. That is, it makes ethnographic references as a way of ironically echoing, parodying, or critiquing colonial ethnographic traditions. (Sophie McCall 29)

84) I appreciated the love-triangle story. I think that the affair humanized the plotline and the characters in a way that I was having trouble doing up to that point in the film. It is easy to look at how different the culture in the film is and put it in a box and ignore similarities to our own lives or culture; however, I think the affair is a great example of the ways in which love and passion and drive for another person can stand the test of time. It doesn't matter where we are or what year it is or what language we speak, people are always going to want companionship and be driven by innate passions, and I found this to be one of the most interesting and engaging parts of the film. Although we are incredibly different people with a different culture from the community in the film, we have some of the same goals and desires and although this might seem simplistic or idealistic, I think it is important to remember and can be easily lost in analyzing the film. (Kim Weber, Lehigh University)

85) That is, [Mel Gibson’s] Apocaltypo includes almost all of the problematic qualities that representations of Native Americans or indigenous people in Hollywood films have contained, many of which come along part and parcel with the familiar style in which the film is made. The film is such a predictable set of tropes, both in terms of plot and film style but also in terms of participation in discourse about representation and Native Americans, that it is tempting to dismiss it altogether. (Stephen Spence 493)

86) By making their own films and videos, [the Inuit] speak for themselves, no longer aliens in an industry which for a century has used them for its own ends. (Michelle Raheja 1168)