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

Filmic context (arranged by print, video/audio, and online resources) by Catherine Willard

Print Resources

Angilirq, Paul Apak, et al. Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner: Inspired by a Traditional Inuit Legend of Igloolik. Toronto: Coach House Books & Isuma Publishing, 2002.
The place to start. Lots of pictures from the film, lots of information about it. Contains the screenplay; articles by and about writer Paul Apak, director Zacharius Kunuk, and cinematographer Norman Cohn; and an ethnographic commentary. Basic contextual information. Interview of Apak by Wachowich.
Atwood, Margaret. "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner." Globe and Mail 10 April 2002: R10.
"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. . . . If Homer had been given a video camera, this is what he would have done."
Bessire, Lucas. "Talking Back to Primitivism: Divided Audiences, Collective Desires." American Anthropologist 105.4 (2003): 832-38.
Bessire examines why society views the Inuit and other native cultures as primitive. Primitivism subjects the native culture to the "noble savage" stereotype, and it also allows the Inuits to be portrayed in a way that is exotic for the viewer but ordinary to the Inuits. The viewers, drawn to the striking landscape and foreign people, are enthralled, as most were, with The Fast Runner. Bessire also looks at the origins of the stereotypes through documents that date as far back as the late fifteenth century, when the Inuit culture was "discovered." Bessire uses these documents to support his argument and convey to the reader an understanding as to why society perceives the Inuit people as friendly, kind, and gentle. Other aspects of native cultures have been incorporated into the mainstream. Bessire briefly describes the permeation of the culture through sports mascots and fashion over the years. He contributes Zacharias Kunuk's successful film to an important collaboration of ideas. The Fast Runner juxtaposes "indigenous imagery with humanizing, valorizing actions and emotions -- all while providing an Inuit story to Inuit people."
Brown, DeNeen L. "The Direction of True North; For His Film of an Inuit Parable, Zacharias Kunuk Stayed Close to Home." Washington Post 1 August 2002: C01.
Interview with director Zacharia Kunuk: "Kunuk wanted . . . to get beneath the stereotype of Inuit as all-innocent, all-good, all-smiling people who eat raw meat. The film, shot in Igloolik, Nunavut, reveals the good and the ugly." Several notable quotes from Kunuk. "Do you want to be like Atanarjuat?" the old people would ask him. "How do you want to lead your life when you grow up? Do you want to be like Atanarjuat and break taboos and bad things will happen to you?" "All these stories [the oral tradition] are lectures. They have reference to how do you want to lead your life." "From the time we saw Anthony Quinn playing Eskimo [in 'The Savage Innocents'], trying to act like us when he was eating raw meat," Kunuk says, "some of the films made about the North were not accurate." "Paul Angilirq changed that story [the ending] because now we are in the modern age and because killing doesn't solve anything," Kunuk says. "It is as much of a myth as the story of Moses or the story of Jesus," Kunuk says. "Was it true? Everyone believes it, so it must be true." "When missionaries came here," he says, "they proclaimed shamanism was the Devil's work. But they didn't look into what the shamans felt, or how they gave life to the dying, visited the dead, found trails over land and underground or took to flight through the air. When the missionaries forced their religion on us, storytelling and drum dancing were also banned."
"Canadian Film 'The Fast Runner' Details Inuit Life." National Public Radio (NPR) 4 July 2002.
This interview features the director of The Fast Runner Zacharias Kunuk and the filmmakers Norman Cohn and Robert M. Young. In Kunuk's words, this movie is about "modesty." He says that it was "supposed to teach us a lesson when we were kids." "It's how you want to be when you grow up." Cohn mentions that this story of love, betrayal, and revenge is special because it is "told entirely from the point of view of people that we've all believed never even had a point of view" for these kinds of things. Young, on his turn, talks about the philosophy of the movie being different from the philosophy of the American cinematography, with it's idea of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth."
Chun, Kimberly . "Storytelling in the Arctic Circle: An Interview with Zacharias Kunuk." Cineaste 28.1 (2002): 21-23.
Beginning with a brief overview of The Fast Runner, the article quickly dives into the interview with director Zacharias Kunuk. The interview covers many different aspects of the movie: the budget, where the idea for the movie originated, the actual filming in the Arctic Circle, the acting, Canadian politics, and the TV production aspects. Kunuk answers even the toughest of questions with extraordinary insight and grace. His opinions are voiced loud and clear as is the pride that he has in his Inuit culture.
Cohn, Norman. "The Art of Community-Based Filmmaking." Brick 70 (2002): 21-23.
Cinematographer Cohn describes the writing team of the film and the collective process joining art and politics that marks Isuma Productions.
Crosbie, Tom. "Critical Historiography in Atanarjuat The Fast Runner and Ten Canoes." Journal of New Zealand Literature 24.2 (2007): 135-54.
This text compares our film with its "Fourth World film" counterpart, Ten Canoes. Crosbie explains the intentions of his essay: "I attempt more simply to explore how both films consciously re-present key aspects of their ethnographic sources (Nanook of the North and the Thomson photographs) and by undermining genre expectations, by forging a link from past to present, and by establishing esoteric or community-directed narratives alongside exoteric or general commentary -- how they reposition the paradigms of observer and observed while also reclaiming circumscribed indigenous identities. The goal of this analysis will be to identify not only the historiographical and social critical enterprises of these two films so apparently bound by colonialist genres, but also to locate what aspects of the films suggest a commonality between them not only as similarly deployed discourses, but as instances of indigenous cinema as such."
Evans, Michael Robert. "Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner." Isuma: Inuit Video Art. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2008. 76-100.
Most importantly, Evans collects three versions of the Atanarjuat story and discusses the variations, especially that the non-violent ending of the film version is nowhere in the oral tradition and is therefore an original contribution to the legend by the Isuma filmmakers.
Evans, Michael Robert. The Fast Runner: Filming the Legend of Atanarjuat. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2010.
Publisher's statement: "The Fast Runner: Filming the Legend of Atanarjuat takes readers behind the cameras, introducing them to the culture, history, traditions, and people that made this movie extraordinary. Michael Robert Evans explores how the epic film, perhaps the most significant text ever produced by indigenous filmmakers, artfully married the latest in video technology with the traditional storytelling of the Inuit. Tracing Atanarjuat from inception through production to reception, Evans shows how the filmmakers managed this complex intercultural "marriage"; how Igloolik Isuma Productions, the world's premier indigenous film company, works; and how Inuit history and culture affected the film's production, release, and worldwide response. His book is a unique, enlightening introduction and analysis of a film that serves as a model of autonomous media production for the more than 350 million indigenous people around the world."
Geiger, Jeffrey, and R. L. Rutsky. "Nanook of the North: Fiction, Truth, and the Documentary Contract." Film Analysis: A Norton Reader. New York: Norton, 2005.
Nanook is the inevitable primary filmic point of reference in discussions of Atanarjuat: "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."
Ginsburg, Faye. "Atanarjuat Off-Screen: From 'Media Reservations' to the World Stage." American Anthropologist 105.4 (2003): 827-31.
Ginsburg dissects the political-economic and social issues that come with the production of this film. The author examines the problems associated with indigenous filmmaking through events that occurred off-screen during the making of The Fast Runner. A closer look is taken at how multi-cultural activists can reconstruct the political and cultural frameworks that oppress this kind of indigenous art.
Gregoire, Lisa. "The Filmmaker." Canadian Geographic 1 March 2007: 26.
Interview of producer and director Zacharias Kunuk, touching on the way the film preserves Inuit culture, the struggles the Inuit people endure so their voices can he heard, and the impact the film has on the younger generations. It also details specifics about the Inuit culture itself.
Hearne, Joanna. "Telling and Retelling in the 'Ink of Light': Documentary Cinema, Oral Narratives and Indigenous Identities." Screen 47.3 (2006): 307-26.
Contrasts the visual work of such whites as Edward Curtis with films like Atanarjuat: "while Curtis's film undermines the validity of a Native belief system by presuming its demise, Kunuk's film demonstrates its power through the depiction of shamanic communication and reincarnation." The scene of Atanarjuat returning from a hunting trip, for instance, though similar to one in Curtis, reflects a fertile, in-tact community, and the revelation of modernity at the end is something that Curtis tried to hide.
Hilden, Patricia Penn. "From an Inuit Zone: Atanarjuat." From a Red Zone: Critical Perspectives on Race, Politics, and Culture. Trenton: Red Sea Press, 2006. 5-9.
Playing off two reviews, one that clearly "whitens" the film, the other that "does not seek to suck this film into a Western world," both failing to truly understand the film, Hilden describes Atanarjuat as a healing ceremony, a "full healing, completed by 'female' and 'male' together. The world -- contemporary or ancient, it doesn't matter -- is again whole." The film is a gift to indigenous viewers all over the world.
Huhndorf, Shari M. "'From the Inside and Through Inuit Eyes': Igloolik Isuma Productions and the Cultural Politics of Inuit Media." Mapping the Americas: The Transnational Politics of Contemporary Native Culture. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2009. 71-104.
Huhndorf conveys the paradoxical struggle for autonomy of the Inuit culture. Beginning with a discussion of the political implications of Isuma films, temporarily detouring to give the reader a history of Zacharias Kunuk and Igloolik Isuma, Huhndorf gets to the heart of the matter right away. She highlights the ironic triangular relationship among the Inuits, Canadians/Europeans, and the films of Isuma, sharing the tangled web of benefit and detriment. Through Isuma's major films, the Inuits attempt to reclaim their cultural sovereignty on an international level; however, without the advent of Christian city-schools and the introduction of modern technology made by the cultural interlopers, the films would cease to exist. Essentially, the Inuits use elements of the culture from which they are trying to assert their independence to do so. Huhndorf then moves on to a closer analysis of the productions, focusing mainly on Atanarjuat and Journals, comparing them as allegories of the colonial experiences of the Inuits, concluding that the films seem similar, yet serve different purposes. Atanarjuat and its controversial ending shows a remnant of hope and potential for reversal of the damage of colonialism, while Journals acts more in a "scare-tactics" fashion to warn against what might happen if colonialism persists.
Huhndorf, Shari M. "Nanook and His Contemporaries: Imagining Eskimos in American Culture, 1897-1922." Critical Inquiry 27.1 (2000): 122-48.
Through an extensive look at the history of Inuit (referred to as "Eskimo" in this text) by the explorers who coerced them, Huhndorf explores how the Inuit culture progressed into mainstream American culture. The "newly-discovered" Inuits were brought to New York City where they were put on display at the American Museum of Natural History. Upon death, as a result of disease, the Inuits would have their brains removed and sent for analysis in labs. After several deaths, the remaining Inuit man was sent back to the North, and the one child was placed in a white-American home. Huhndorf's piece describes the life of this young boy as he grows up and speaks out for his dying culture. The author calls into question our perception of the Inuit people, discussing scenes from Nanook that should be looked at from a perspective different from that of the American's.
Huhndorf, Shari. "Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner: Culture, History, and Politics in Inuit Media." American Anthropologist 105.4 (2003): 822-26.
Huhndorf discusses the actual story portrayed in the film. She provides insight into how producer and director Zacharias Kunuk generated the idea for the story and acknowledges the impact the film has as the first ever Iglooik Isuma Production. The film transcends the barriers that were set decades ago and had yet to be overcome until the production of this groundbreaking film. The Fast Runner supports the indigenous activists' cause because of its ability to preserve a heritage that had been oppressed by stereotypes for over a century.
Hussain, Amir. "The Fast Runner." Journal of Religion and Film 6.2 (2002). http://www.unomaha.edu/jrf/antan.htm
The landscape and physical geography of The Fast Runner are stunning. However, there are flaws, the use of common clichés (such as, for instance, images of good and evil) being the most "disappointing" of them. Hussain criticizes the salvaging image of the protagonist, comparing him to images of Jesus Christ and Hercules. Hussain argues that the idea of a non-violent way of living was brought to the Inuit by Western colonizers, and he grieves that it has been adopted and turned into the Inuit myth.
Knopf, Kerstin. "Atanarjuat: Fast Running and Electronic Storytelling in the Arctic." Transcultural English Studies: Theories, Fictions, Realities. Ed. Frank Schulze-Engler et. al. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009. 201-20.
Sees the film in the context of transculturation, with Nanook as the point of reference. Lots of film details. "The film belongs to a transcultural and decolonized film discourse that consciously merges indigenous cultures and colonial influences."
Krupat, Arnold. "Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner and Its Audiences." Critical Inquiry 33.3 (2007): 606-31.
Krupat examines how Atanarjuat has reached out to and been interpreted by its two most obvious audiences -- the Inuit (the insider) and Westerners (the outsiders). Within the latter group, Krupat makes a distinction between those outsiders willing to put in the effort to at least "relativize their habitual perspectives, ultimately, to 'move the center,'" and those who are not. He reels off example after example of reviews that neglected to "move the center," listing literally dozens of reviews praising the film for being Campbellian, Shakespearean, and/or Homeric. But the makers of Atanarjuat, Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, have curiously embraced these interpretations, championing the movie's universality while still insisting that this was a film first and foremost for the Inuit. Krupat explains why Kunuk and Cohn have encouraged "responses that quite thoroughly block any movement of the epistemological and generic center" by closely examining the outtakes played during the end credits of Atanarjuat and the inclusion of shamanism in the plot (something never seen in previous accounts of the Atanarjuat legend). Krupat muses that Kunuk, knowing his film has been embraced and understood by the Inuit community and those outsiders willing to "move the center," is content to let everyone else translate the film in their own familiar and comfortable way; "let them go on clueless, if they wish!"
Krupat, Arnold. All That Remains: Varieties of Indigenous Expression. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2009.
Version of his Critical Inquiry article.
Kulchyski, Peter. "Violence, Gender, and Community in Atanarjuat." Film, History and Cultural Citizenship: Sites of Production. Ed. Tina Mai Chen and David S. Churchill. New York: Routledge, 2007. 131-42.
There are three communities in the film: "the community of Inuit represented in the filmic narrative structure, the philosophical idea of community that the film works through, and the community of film workers." In contrast to mainstream films, this one ultimately eschews the glorification of violence: injury does not require revenge. There are many projections of women; they are not positioned as male fantasy projections.
Kunuk, Zacharias. "I first heard the story of Atanarjuat from my mother." Brick 70 (2002): 17-19.
Brief but vivid comments from the director of the film on his childhood, the meaning of Atanarjuat in his life, and Isuma Productions.
Lyons, Scott Richard. "Rhetorical Sovereignty: What Do American Indians Want from Writing?" College Composition and Communication 51.3 (2000): 447-68.
As Native American children began to be incorporated into "American" schools, the young children struggled with the concept of writing. Native Americans wrote in pictures showing heroic battle scenes, migration of animals, or chores in their village. An attempt to eradicate this form of communication specific to each tribe was just one more step in trying to erase centuries of Native American history. This article questions the idea of the written word being taught in schools to Native American populations. Lyons uses the term rhetorical sovereignty as the basis for his essay: "Rhetorical sovereignty is the inherent right of the 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." The essay argues for the ability of the Native Americans to choose how they want to communicate -- whether through drawing or writing. Lyons' formulation of rhetorical sovereignty has basic application to our film.
McCall, Sophie. "'I Can Only Sing This Song to Someone Who Understands It': Community Filmmaking and the Politics of Partial Translation in Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner." Essays on Canadian Writing 83 (2004): 19-46.
"An analysis of the historical constructions of Inuit stories and songs in text and film shows how Atanarjuat's collaborative filmmaking production opens up for negotiation hierarchical relations in both textmaking and filmmaking. Moreover, a consideration of the convergence of the making of the film with the formation of Nunavut reveals that, as an expression of cultural nationalism, Atanarjuat self-consciously places itself at the forefront of the current Inuit cultural renaissance. However, the struggle to make Atanarjuat without financial help from Nunavut has fuelled the filmmakers' critique of the new territory's priorities."
Raheja, Michelle H. "Reading Nanook's Smile: Visual Sovereignty, Indigenous Revisions of Ethnography, and Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)." American Quarterly 59.4 (2007): 1159-87.
This article takes the discrimination that the Inuit people face in the media and applies it to all other Native American cultures. The author discusses the myths and stereotypes that surround these cultures and how it has affected their status politically and economically in the United States. The author coins the term "visual sovereignty" when discussing "The Fast Runner" and cites that it is the word sovereignty, itself, that sets the Native American culture apart from all other cultures: "In Scott Richard Lyon's formulation, sovereignty is ‘nothing less than our attempt to survive and flourish as a people'." Visual sovereignty is the actual portrayal of the differences between native cultures and other societies on-screen; the viewers of these films can visually see that which sets these native cultures apart. There are several techniques, like editing or staging certain situations for example, that allow for indigenous cultures' stories to be told in a way that separates them from all other cultures.
Shubow, Jason. "Cold Comfort: The Misrepresentation at the Center of The Fast Runner." American Prospect 28 February 2003. http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=cold_comfort
"The Washington Post's Desson Howe wrote that the film was 'as close to authentic myth as cinema has ever gotten.' In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: During the more than six months since the film's release, it seems to have gone almost completely unnoticed -- by reviewers and audiences alike -- that at the film's core is a crucial lie." That lie is the pacifistic ending, since all versions of the original myth end in stark violence: "with everybody's brains all over the floor," as cinematographer Norman Cohn says. Shubow wonders if the climactic forgiveness is influenced, ironically, by Christianity, to which, surprisingly, director Kunuk replied, "Probably."
Siebert, Monika. "Atanarjuat and the Ideological Work of Contemporary Indigenous Filmmaking." Public Culture 18.3 (2006): 531-50.
This article considers the importance of Canada's attempts to shape its national films through respecting its diverse communities as distinct entities, each with value. Atanarjuat serves as an attempt to give rhetorical sovereignty to the Inuit people through the tale of their traditional epic in their own voice. Siebert analyzes how this attempt is complicated by the juxtaposition of the culturally distinct Inuit community throughout the entirety of the film and the Inuit actors arguably erasing this unique value in the showing of the outtakes, where the Inuits are performing and practicing these differences, at the very end of the film. Being neither overly critical nor idealistic, Siebert concludes that "by intimating the extent of its contradictory ideological investments, Kunuk's film specifies the possibilities and constraints of indigenous self-representation in the present."
Spence, Stephen. "The Revelations of Mel." American Indian Quarterly 31.3 (2007): 491-503.
Spence criticizes Mel Gibson's Apocalypto by claiming Gibson draws on Native American Hollywood stereotypes such as savagery/nobility and individual over community. Spence is critical of Gibson's motives and intent, stating that this unremarkable film bears very little historical accuracy and overlooks many historical achievements of the Mayans. Gibson attempts to push a modern political agenda onto the viewer rather than portray the Mayan civilization with any sense of visual sovereignty, a point he emphasizes by comparing the successful portrayal of the Inuit people in Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.
Taubin, Amy. "Triste Arctique." Artforum 1 April 2007.
This article includes several different factual aspects of The Fast Runner. It begins with the film's accolades, such as the Caméra d'Or award at Cannes Film Festival, and then proceeds to give a detailed synopsis of the events in the movie. The author discusses the collaboration between Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn and then delves into the spread of Christianity to the Iglooik community. It offers no analysis but shares a plethora of fact.

See Also

DeLillo, Don. "Counterpoint: Three Movies, a Book, and an Old Photograph." Brick 74 (2004): 96-105.

Dowell, Kristin. "Indigenous Media Gone Global: Strengthening Indigenous Identity On- and Offscreen at First Nations/First Features Film Showcase." American Anthropologist 108.2 (2006): 376-84.

Fienup-Riordan, Ann. Freeze Frame: Alaska Eskimos in the Movies. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1995.

Gauthier, Jennifer L. "Speaking Back with Similar Voices: The Dialogic Cinema of Zacharias Kunuk and Pierre Perrault." Quarterly Review of Film and Video 27.2 (2010): 108-20.

Gunderson, Sonia. "Zacharias Kunuk: Running Fast to Preserve Inuit Culture." Inuit Art Quarterly 19.3-4 (2004): 48-52.

Kaufman, Debra. "A Collective Effort: Inuit Legends Inspire Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner." American Cinematographer 82.12 (2001): 80-87.

Kolodny, Annette. "Tropic Trappings in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto and Joseph Nicobar's The Life and Traditions of the Red Man." American Indian Culture and Research Journal 32.1 (2008): 21-34.

Krewani, Angela. "'Through the Camera Lens': Cultural Practice as Media Image." Zeitschrift für Kanada-Studien 28.1 (2008): 108-18.

McSweeney, Terence. "Apocalypto Now: A New Millennial Pax Americana in Crisis?" Media and the Apocalypse. Ed. Kylo-Patrick R. Hart and Annette Holba. New York: Peter Lang, 2009. 167-85.

Meeuf, Russell. "Critical Localism, Ethical Cosmopolitanism and Atanarjuat." Third Text 21.6 (2007): 733-44.

National Museum of Man. Canadian Inuit Literature: The Development of a Tradition. Canadian Ethnology Service Paper No. 94. National Museums of Canada, 1984.

Perreault, Jeanne. "Stealing Souls: The Dynamics of Evil in Contemporary Indigenous Literature." Native American Studies across Time and Space: Essays on the Indigenous Americas. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, 2010.

Raheja, Michelle H. Reservation Reelism: Redfacing Visual Sovereignty and Representations of Native Americans in Film. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2010.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Said, S. F. "Everyday White." Sight and Sound. 16.9 (2006): 36-39.

Turcotte, Gerry. "First Nations Phantoms & Aboriginal Spectres: The Function of Ghosts in Settler-Invader Cultures." Postcolonial Ghosts/Fantômes Post-Coloniaux. Montpellier: Universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2009.

Varga, Darrell. "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Zacharias Kunuk, 2001." The Cinema of Canada. London: Wallflower, 2006. 225-33.

Varga, Darrell. "History and Storytelling: The Documentary Context of Canadian Cinema." Screening Canadians: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Canadian Film. Ed. Wolfram R. Keller. Marburg : Universitätsbibliothek Marburg, 2008. 59-75.

White, Jerry. "Frozen but Always in Motion: Arctic Film, Video, and Broadcast." Velvet Light Trap 55 (2005): 52-64.

Video/Audio Resources

Nanook of the North. Dir. Robert Flaherty. 1922 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVbQVWkdcFk
The classic film (tagged "a story of life and love in the actual Arctic" on the title image), widely referred to as the beginning of the documentary genre but now often criticized for its stereotyping, that exhibits the harsh life of one Eskimo family. For years and years, this film was virtually totally responsible for our culture's image of the Inuit. It is specifically referenced negatively by the Inuit filmmakers. 8-part version on YouTube. Note especially the clown car episode in part 1, the phonograph and castor oil episodes at the trading post in part 2, the seal-catching episode at the end on part 6/beginning of part 7, and the naked Nyla in part 8.
The Savage Innocents (1960) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1yc4y4U2G8
More recent than Nanook but just as problematic as a representation of the Inuit and actually mentioned by the makers of Atanarjuat as a film that made them recoil. Anthony Quinn's Inuk is more than slightly daffy; everyone, especially the women, giggle too much; fairly revolting eating and dancing predominate early; vaguely oriental music feels out of place; gender relationships and rituals are often buffoonish; Inuk's first contact with a rifle replaces Nanook's with a phonograph; his shock that his new-born baby has no teeth is ludicrous. Visiting a trading post for the first time introduces Inuk to a white man, the white man's music, dancing, liquor, and a missionary -- whom he accidentally kills because he refuses the friendly offer to "laugh" with his wife according to Eskimo custom. He has broken white man's law, however, and the troopers track him down. Faced with escaping and saving himself or saving a trooper's life and enduring a murder charge, however, Inuk acts unselfishly. That creates a moral dilemma for the trooper that Inuk's wife clears up when she tells him that the white men should bring their wives not their laws to a "strange land." 11-part version available on YouTube. Watching the first two parts, especially the eating and dancing episode in part 2, should suffice to exemplify the negative representation scorned by the Inuit.

Online Resources

Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner http://www.isuma.tv/atanarjuat
The official movie site. Lots and lots of information. Especially valuable are the sections on the legend (with an annotated map following the plot line) and interview, both of actors and people behind the camera.
Atanarjuat -- The Trailer http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3887530265/
It's always interesting to see how a film is packaged and promoted to the public through the snapshot of it in the trailer.
Interview with Paul Apak Angilirq http://www.isuma.tv/hi/en/atanarjuat/interviews
Apak was the film's writer, who died before it was finished. The interviewer Nancy Wachowich describes how Apak described his purpose as creating "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."
Isuma Productions: Independent Inuit Film http://www.isuma.ca/
The Inuit film company responsible for Atanarjuat. From the Isuma web site: "Our name Isuma means 'to think' -- as in Thinking Productions. Young and old work together to keep our ancestors' knowledge alive."
Kunuk, Zacharias, "The Public Art of Storytelling." http://www.com.umontreal.ca/spry/old/spry-kz-lec.html
Transcription of a lecture in Vancouver on November 25, 2002, by the film's director.
Zappa, Frank. "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws5Xeu3BEQk
Frank Zappa song: "Dreamed I was an eskimo / Frozen wind began to blow / Under my boots and around my toes / The frost that bit the ground below / It was a hundred degrees below zero... / And my mama cried / And my mama cried / Nanook, a-no-no / Nanook, a-no-no / Don't be a naughty eskimo . . ."