Irish Film Institute -Atanarjuat


Director: Zacharias Kunuk

Winner of the prestigious Camera d’Or for best first feature at the last Cannes Film Festival, AtanarjuatoThe Fast Runner is the first film to be made in the Inuit language Inuktitut. This very impressive epic draws on the great Inuit storytelling tradition, which has passed all their knowledge, values, philosophy and culture from generation to generation without a written language. In keeping with this tradition, the story of Atanarjuat is naturally entertaining and assumes the timeless qualities of a myth.
Years ago, the intervention of a shaman cast a dark spell over the small Arctic community of Igloolik, causing bad blood between two families. Trouble erupts when Atanarjuat falls in love with the beautiful Atuat, who has been promised to Oki, the boastful and bullying son the morally corrupt tribe leader. When Oki plots to kill his rival, Atanarjuat is forced to flee naked across the ice and snow in one of the most agonising and compelling scenes to be found in any recent movie.
This classic fable about the individual and the community in which he must live is filmed by director Zacharias Kunuk with astonishing fidelity to his characters’ culture and traditions. The film works as both a fascinating ethnographic documentary and a riveting drama of good and evil. Featuring an all-Inuit cast of experienced actors and first-time performers, Atanarjuat was shot by an almost entirely Inuit crew on location in the Canadian Arctic. With cinematographer Norman Cohn, Kunuk captures the vast expanse of sky, unique Arctic light and the sprawling sea ice with austere, evocative beauty. More than anything else, the brilliant purity and clarity of the light imbues this fascinating tale with a kind of pristine, crystalline beauty.
Canada, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 172 mins.

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