Film Review: MALIGLUTIT (Canada 2016) ***

maliglutitDirectors: Zacharias Kunuk, Natar Ungalaaq
Writers: Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk
Stars: Benjamin Kunuk, Karen Ivalu, Jonah Qunaq

Review by Gilbert Seah

 If the English title of this movie sounds familiar, it is because the film is taken from the plot of John Ford’s classic John Wayne western THE SEARCHERS. The Inuk title translates literally to ‘followers’. The simple plot involves an Inuk man searching for his kidnapped wife and daughter.

The film begins with a quarrel as an Inuk man is upset that a man has been fooling around with his wife. The words ‘f***ing asshole’ and ‘***ker’ (in Inuk) are exchanged frequently. It is the omen of what is to occur. The Inuk man has his wife and daughter are later kidnapped by marauders. He and his son set out to find those responsible and rescue the wife and daughter. The revenge plot gives the film, at times the feel of an action flick like TAKEN.

The film is a bit confusing at the start. All the characters are heavily clothed and it is at first hard to tell who is who and which one is the villain. It does not help that the Inuk man and son as well as the maunders take out an expedition at the same time, so that one has to recall the faces to figure out what is going on, in terms of plot.

What is most fascinating about the film is the Inuk culture depicted. The daily routines like making tea, eating and sewing are on display. If one has never seen what he inside of an igloo looks like, the film offers plenty of opportunity to see both the insides and exterior, as well as the brief construction of one. The chopping of frozen food that makes the daily diet, as well as eating of the food frozen.

The cinematography of the real ‘great white North’ is nothing short of stunning. Like David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia where a lone figure stands in the vast spaces of sand, lone figures are seen in the mountains of snow and ice with no other signs of civilization. One wonders how the filmmakers managed to get all the filming equipment way up to the Arctic.

The film is necessarily violent from the kidnapping to the revenge scenes. The latter is satisfying, seeing how director Kunk has primed his audience for anger and a thirst for revenge. The tracking of the kidnappers, Inuk-style is like nothing anyone has seen before. Suspense is also heightened as the Inuk man has only one bullet left at the end, so that he has to kill two men with one bullet.

Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk broke into the film scene 15 years ago when his film, the excellent ATANARJUAT: THE FAST RUNNER won the prestigious Caméra d’or for Best First Feature at Cannes. SEARCHERS can nowhere can be compared to ATANARUAT, but the film is still definitely worth a look. The film has also been selected as Canada’s top 10 films of 2016.


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