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on February 13, 2004
The beauty of this movie lies in its unique style that pulls viewers up close with the people and the action, allowing us to catch a glimpse of rich Inuit culture and their harsh yet life-sustaining beautiful homeland through seasons. The material culture was meticulously researched and presented as beautiful clothing, ice architecture, and other personal belongings, which are sometimes given hidden meanings for "the Southern" viewers. Maybe our storyteller Zacharias Kunuk intentionally made them more eloquent than the spoken narrative, which is curiously kept minimal. When I first saw it I was often confused about what is happening until I learned more about the legend much later.
I recommend the "Deluxe" DVD set available from, which comes with special features including the original legend, the production diary, cast bios, and family trees of Atanarjuat and Oki. You can get the same information from [...] Those materials are very helpful to appreciate the movie.
People of Nunavut is fortunate to be blessed with Zacharias Kunuk, a great filmmaker and visionary. I was lucky to be in Canada last summer when I caught three episodes of "Nunavut (Our Land)" on Bravo!, produced by Igloolik Isuma Production in 1995, which tells tales of an Inuit community in 1940s with a style similar to Atanarjuat. I am totally fascinated by the works of Isuma. To learn more about them, visit [...]
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on June 28, 2003
Atanarjuat loves Atuat. His father was a bit of a tribal ne'er-do-well, and he is very close to his brother, literally and figuratively, throughout the film, as he courts Atuat, fights for her, wins her, loses her, and returns to her despite the murderous machinations of Oki, son of the tribe's chief.
This film tells a classic tale, but the fact that it is Inuit makes it especially interesting; the pace is different and the light is more stark, a bit like Scent of Green Papaya for the northern climes. The first time the camera opens onto the snow-filled tundra, your eyes will be shocked. The acting is very good, many things can be seen in a look or a smile, and the details of clothing and everyday life are incredible. For a technologized Westerner, it can be jarring to adapt to the pace of the film, but it is filled with drama, love, violence, life and death, and the experience is eminently worthwhile.
DVD features are abysmal, however. I would have *loved* a behind-the-scenes documentary or commentary by the cast and crew, particularly since this is such a rarity -- an Inuit film, but the only extras are trailers for Lagaan, Lawrence of Arabia and Limbo. That's it. A real shame.
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on February 6, 2004
Watching this movie is a bit like, if you can imagine this, watching a TV movie made by an ancient bronze-age television network. In other words, it's TV, and the plot is pretty straightforward ... but it's prehistoric TV! The actors are eskimos plucked right off the ice. We've never lived this way, and we're thrown into a television that's impossibly foreign. The texture of their lives comes through in this movie like a shockwave. Well-filmed and acted, but not in the normal sense. It's strikingly real, in a way I feel is barely understood any more.
The crazy thing is -- why aren't there more movies from the bronze age? A thousand aboriginal stories disappear everyday -- and we have -one- movie like this? All the other movies are about white people meeting aboriginal culture, and the disappearance of their way of life, etc. But Atanarjuat comes straight from the beating heart of a lifestyle that goes back to our origins. That's why it gets 5 stars from me ... This isn't a movie. It's a piece of who we are.
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on July 11, 2003
Excellent film of an Alaskan tribe survival in their natural territory. They respect their elders. The eldest son must hunt for food and get along with other tribe's they meet. But some tribes are called "strangers". They try to steal someone's dog sled, food or kill for what they want. The Fast Runner can keep it all together. An evil tribe tries to kill by stabbing the tent he and another man is sleeping in. Naked, he escapes and runs for his life and even appears to run on water while enemies fall through. This film, shot on video, also deals with evil spirits, love, death and leadership. But mostly, the family stays together no matter what. There are scenes of full frontal male nudity, female nudity, sex and simulated violence.
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on January 31, 2004
This is an interesting film about a nomadic group of Inuit (eskimos) who have a curse on their community after a shaman visited them. Later, Atanarjut, comes into the spotlight and falls in love with a young woman who is betrothed to someone else. The two men fight over the woman as a result.
While it is a good movie, some of the music has didgeridoos in it. Although I like that kind of music, it is wholly innappropriate to have Australian Aboriginal music in a movie about Eskimos. What was Chris Crilly thinking?!
It is compenstaed with traditional Inuit chanting though.
Also if you have a lot more interest in the film, there is a special edition available on DVD in Canada with scenes cut form the US release
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on January 21, 2004
All of the terrific reviews below underscored here, BUT:
if you're going to drop $25 for this DVD, spend about $5 USDollars more and buy the CANADIAN "deluxe" version --
it includes a second "making of" disc that adds the trailer, an account of the legend behind the story,
and several other goodies.
There are several vendors in Canada (including
that carry the two-disc set, and it's a region-1-DVD, so it will play on your US DVD player.
Highly recommended ... gorgeous film --
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on February 10, 2006
This is a fantastic film. It is a little slow at the beginning, but that reflects the nature of the far north; having lived and travelled in the Western Arctic, I can attest to the "slow-pace" of life that most northerners cherish and enjoy. I think it does a great job of capturing many aspects of Inuit culture such as the importance of family, the role of humour, etc. The film is based on a "strong" Inuit story/legend that is complex and involved; it's nice to see this considering that Aboriginal stories are typically stereotyped as short and carrying a "simple" moral lesson for children.
It's a great movie and I would recommend it to anyone. It's a nice change from the usual big-budget films most of us watch regularly.
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on April 24, 2004
What made this story so great was its span over generations, showing many ways in which people conspire against eachother, and the many ways people respond to others' conspiracies.
I did have to rewind a little to make sure I knew who was who in the big scheme of things, and make sure I understood what was going on, but overall, this film is easy to digest for anyone with some intelligence and curiosity.
Aside from the power of the story itself, the sensual experience of watching the film was totally novel, it being set in Igloolik 1000 years ago. The cast did a great job.
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on September 14, 2003
Watching Fast Runner, I felt like a quiet member of the Inuit family sitting around a fire hearing this story and my imagination saw this film. This is masterful storytelling. The end credits document how much the filmmakers (actors and production people) wanted to bring this story to us in a medium we could understand. I was very cynical about my ability to like a movie this long in such a language. After 3 hours, I felt at home, covered in seal skins and my belly full of seal meat. My curiosity about what I didnÕt grasp has me researching this film and story. It is not for everybody, but, for the movie viewer who loves to seek truth from every culture and find another link in that human experience, 3 hours will almost seem too short. I donÕt know how well I would survive that north in Canada, but I have a vague idea how to survive because of this film. I will never complain about rolling blackouts again. What a hard life even if it has access to more modern amenities! To everyone involved in Fast Runner, THANK YOU!!!
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on April 25, 2004
This is one of those movies that start out really slow, but if you hang in there and make it through the first forty-five minutes, you will end up satisfied. In my opinion the creators of "The Fast Runner" use the slow pace in the movie as a reflection of the speed at which life moves in the Inuit tribe on which the story focuses.
The movie starts when a demon visits an Inuit group and curses them. At this time, Tulimag is having trouble to feed his family and already starts receiving a treatment that is not the "usual" this society gives to its members. Eskimos are known for their generosity and solidarity, but Tulimag becomes the object of ridicule and he is only given the leftovers from the food the others get. Years later, his two sons are well respected and some of the best hunters in the group. Atanarjuat and Amaqjuart have a good life and are very close to each other. Atanarjuat is in love with Atuat, but she is promised to Oki, who is willing to fight for her. In the meantime, Oki's sister, Puja, is interested in Atanarjuat. The events develop and we get to see the special rules they use in their "duels" and their customs regarding marriages. When a severe tragedy knocks on the door, the adventure picks up in pace and the interest of the audience is grabbed until the end without letting go.
Except for the painfully slow pace at the beginning, this is a highly enjoyable movie. Nevertheless, you have to be in the mood to sit down for three hours and be patient until the events turn into something really interesting. Apart from the story in this particular case, I enjoyed learning about the uses and culture of this society, about which I knew very little. The other remarkable aspect is the photography, which is absolutely stunning! Overall, I think it is a creation worth seeing, but you have to carefully pick the moment to do so.
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