Canada Now: Maliglutit (Searchers)

Canada Now: maliglutit searchers
Maliglutit (Searchers)

Directed by: Zacharias Kunuk and Natar Ungalaaq
Starring Jonah Qunaq, Benjamin Kunuk, Joseph Uttak, Joey Sarpinak, Lucy Tulugarjuk, Jocelyne Immaroitok and Karen Ivalu
Screening as part of Canada Now Film Festival

by Bernie C Byrnes

Nunavut, circa 1913. Kuanana returns from a caribou hunt to discover his wife and daughter kidnapped, and the rest of his family slaughtered. His father’s spirit helper, the loon Kallulik, sets him on course to overturn fate and reunite his family.

Based on John Ford’s 1956 western The Searchers, Maliglutit is a vast and impressive tale of revenge. Snow replaces desert, dogs replace horses, but makeshift camps, isolation, wilderness, rape and violence are still abound.

Fifteen years ago, Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk won the prestigious Caméra d’or for Best First Feature at Cannes with Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. His second feature, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, opened TIFF in 2006, so you’ve got to assume he knows what he’s doing. That said, however deliberate it might be, this film is slow-moving. As much ethnography as drama, Maliglutit spends a lot of time showing Inuit tending fire, preparing food, building shelters, managing their dogs and sleeping. It does, however, have a bizarre tension and suspense, which makes it gripping in a slow motion sort of way.

Occasional rape and violence aside, really not much happens. A group of bad men move painfully slowly across the Tundra while another good man tracks them and follows at a marginally faster pace.

This film is wonderful if you like this sort of thing. I’m afraid I don’t. Way too slow-moving for me.


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