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The Fast Runner(Atanarjuat) (2001)

Cast: Natar Ungalaq, Natar Ungalaq, Sylvia Ivalu, more...
Director: Zacharias Kunuk, Zacharias Kunuk
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Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: Costume Drama/Period Piece, Adventure, Quest, Revenge, Canada
Running Time: 161 min.
Subtitles: English
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Atanarjuat the Fast Runner is the first feature film in the Inuktitut language, spoken by the Inuit tribes of northern Canada. The film, based on an ancient Inuit legend, is set at the dawn of the millennium. It's an epic tale of love, betrayal, and revenge, set in motion by an evil force brought to the village of Igloolik by a mysterious shaman. Conceived by the late Paul Apak Angilirq, who co-wrote the screenplay, the film was shot on widescreen digital video by Norman Cohn (one of the few non-Inuit crew members on the shoot) and directed by Zacharias Kunuk. Kunuk and his crew meticulously re-created the conditions the Inuit tribes lived under before exposure to Southern influences, using information handed down from tribe elders and the journals of Captain William Edward Parry, a British explorer who visited the area in 1822. The film tells the story of Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaq), an unassuming young man who falls in love with Atuat (Sylvia Ivalu), whose hand has already been promised to the scheming Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq), the son of the tribal chief. Atanarjuat doesn't think he's strong enough to fight Oki, and relies on his older brother, the powerful Amaqjuaq (Pakkak Innukshuk), to look out for him. But eventually, the jealous Oki challenges Atanarjuat to a brutal contest for Atuat's hand. Atanarjuat wins, and weds his love, but his problems are far from over. While Atuat is pregnant, Oki's sister, the flirtatious Puja (Lucy Tulugarjuk), seduces Atanarjuat and becomes his second wife. She disrupts Atanarjuat's family from within while Oki plans his revenge. Atanarjuat the Fast Runner won the Camera D'Or at Cannes in 2001, and was selected for the 2002 New Directors/New Films Festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. ~ Josh Ralske, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Never Cry Wolf
Filmed on location in the frozen wilds of Alaska and Canada; one of the best films about man's relationship with nature

Nanook of the North
Robert Flaherty's groundbreaking documentary humanized the Inuit

GreenCine Member Reviews

Brrrr.... by TaoG December 18, 2006 - 10:14 PM PST
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
This movie literally left me cold - physically, while intriguingly bringing to life far-reaching Inuit mythos. It is stark. Primal. Harsh. Immersiviely and so, with performances that are alive and truly rendered. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful and brilliant in it's use of an unobtrusive documentary feel. I suggest a parka or a blanket, and or central heating.

Best Inuit movie I've ever seen :) by nate April 13, 2004 - 3:00 PM PDT
3 out of 6 members found this review helpful
Wow! It's really long, it's in subtitled Inuit, and it's stunningly good. If it were just presented as an ethnography is would be well worth watching, but the plot is captivating as well.

This is definitely a film coming from a culture with a well-developed but very different sense of story. The pacing, plot devices, and character development work fabulously, but are unlike anything I've seen before.

I'm trying to come up with comparisons, but failing. To me, the feel is somewhat Japanese, but I can't come up with any direct parallels. Literarily, all I can think of is Milorad Pavic's "Dictionary of the Khazars", in that one is frequently left wondering if a particular story detail is an ingenious invention of the writer or a well-trodden cliche from a culture one knows nothing about.

Probably helps to have at least some fascination for the Arctic, not for those looking for relaxing cookie-cutter eye-candy, but a great movie for everyone else.

great movie! by eryn74 July 20, 2003 - 9:37 AM PDT
1 out of 9 members found this review helpful
Simply a great movie!

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.07)
209 Votes
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Films of/by/about Indigenous People that I like
Cannes Film Festival & More - 2001
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.

see all lists

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