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The Fan Hitch, Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog, is published four times a year. It is available at no cost online at: http://thefanhitch.org.
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reviewed by Sue Hamilton
A troubled teenager is living in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, a big city environment. Inuk is far from his aboriginal roots. He lives with his mother and step-father in a toxic environment of alcohol abuse and violence. Fleeing their apartment Inuk finds no shelter and is found by police nearly frozen to death in a parked car. He is taken from his mother to a home for neglected and orphaned children in the small community of Uummannaq, the birth home he left as a young boy. Now, a stranger in his own land, the citified teenager is forced to adjust to unfamiliar surroundings and demanding conditions.
During a children’s organized outing on the ice, Inuk experiences flashbacks of his father’s death. He has been paired with Ikuma, a legendary hunter who is also haunted by torments of his own past. Challenged by weather, poor ice conditions and their personal demons, mentor and city kid look beyond the intrusion of a modern world as they seek to reconnect with a traditional lifestyle.
Several metaphoric threads wind through the fabric of this story as the unraveled lives of Inuk and Ikuma, begin to heal. One is the symbolism of the dog whip the young boy accepts from his father moments before the elder drowns. It is later seen falling to the floor as Inuk flees his mother’s apartment. Subsequently, the whip is found in the travel bag (packed by his mother) Inuk takes to the children’s home. During a pivotal scene, Inuk eventually favors the whip over the ultimately tucked away MP3 player, a parting gift from a Nuuk classmate, which played throbbing rap music in Inuk’s ears – and the audience’s – even as Inuk accompanied Ikuma out on the ice. There is plenty of beautiful traditional music which serves not only as a backdrop to the movie but also helps define the action.
Directed by Mike Magidson and written by Magidson, Jean-Michel Huctin and Ole Jørgen Hammeken (who plays Ikuma), Inuk is absolutely magnificent! Not just some adventure flick, it is as true and rich a story about Inuit culture and social issues as can be done. And as much as I loved the polar scenery, I have to admit that both the cinematography and the camera's capture of the many subtle nuances of body language and close up facial expressions confirm that a picture IS worth a thousand words. Although not minimalist in dialog, the film’s ample use of this imagery was brilliant. My only criticism, well not really a criticism, was that I found myself having to make hurried decisions to choose either reading the subtitles or watching the rest of the screen. This was more a failing on my part, not understanding Greenlandic and, even wearing glasses, I couldn't grab all of the written dialog quickly enough in order not to miss one bit of the show.
Inuk is loaded with dog teams in action. Viewers get to see just how tough they are. Especially for those unfamiliar with the traditional use of Inuit Dogs and who may cringe at the use of whips, it is worth mentioning that as the whip is flicked on either side of a team, no dog is seen cringing or wincing. This appropriate use of dog whips is consistent with Ikuma’s teachable moment with Inuk, “You have to show the dogs you’re the boss, but always with respect. Without them, you’re a dead man.”
The movie’s writers and Mike Magidson’s directorial talent result in a gritty, edgy, visceral and authentic story. It is no surprise that Inuk has been seizing honors at film festivals around the globe, achieving over 30 major awards so far. Greenland has selected Inuk as its submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the category of Best Foreign Language film. Let’s hope it makes the cut (January 10, 2013) and goes on to receive an Oscar (February 24, 2013).
Inuk is 90 minutes long. Be sure to visit the website where you can catch a trailer and learn more about the film which will be shown to the general public first in Germany in early 2013, then in Switzerland, Austria and South Korea. Theatrical releases are also planned for Canada, Australia and the United States.
Be sure to keep Inuk on your radar. This is a must see/must own film!
To learn more about the Uummannaq Children’s Home, visit their website.