Blog 4 Assignment – First Nations Films

Of all the Aboriginal movies shown in class, this one stands out the most. This was the only movie that did not focus on trying to criticize Hollywood’s false interpretations regarding natives, or the way “white” people treat natives. At its core, this was simply a well-produced movie that shows the Inuit culture in the most authentic form that I have ever witnessed on cinema. The director chose the right way to educate viewers on Aboriginal culture. In order to erase this false image painted on natives by Hollywood, what you have to do is create very good and authentic films, showing the native culture to the world, not by criticizing Hollywood for what they have incorrectly projected.

In Reel Injun, a director in the documentary comments about how this was not a movie, this was actual aboriginal culture at its most authentic form. At the time I heard this, I had no idea what he was talking about. However, after witnessing the running scene for myself, I knew exactly what he was talking about. This was no “Hollywood” product type movie that is standardized for the general public, this was what the actual Inuit culture was like and the real problems that they faced.

There was no drunk or drug addict “idiot” aboriginal in this film that most other aboriginal movies show. Reel Injun states how the protagonist is always white, whereas in this film the protagonist, Atanarjuat, is Inuit. He was a good protagonist as well, someone who had typical Hollywood hero qualities, such as athleticism (hence why he is called the fast runner), being able to endure pain for his loved ones (shown by the nude running scene), and someone who is noble and fair (gets the opportunity to kill the guys who tried to kill him, instead opting for peace).

The problems the people faced in the movie, such as betrayal (other tribe trying to kill Atanarjuat), and adultery (the girl sleeping with another person’s husband), are typical issues that are universal and are in film classics such as Lawrence of Arabia and the Odyssey as this article states. For example, when the son killed his father to become the leader of the tribe, it reminded me of Commodus killing his father in Gladiator. Thus, this culture was different, yet also very similar to Western and European culture, and that this Inuit culture was no “out of this world”, “alien” culture. Furthermore, I learned about the different beliefs that they had, such as the scene with the evil spirit being cast out of the brother and sister that were causing all the problems. Or the spiritual visions Atanarjuat sees when he is almost dying and he calls for his father to help guide him, leading him to the old man’s family. Or the old man placing a spell on a rabbit which the antagonist eats and makes him lose his intelligence. These are all cultural beliefs that I had never known about before.

As this article states, the whole movie was created to show “Inuit and non-Inuit how we lived”. The result of the high rate of suicides amongst Inuit teenagers, was that a movie had to be created to show Inuit teenagers, and others in Canada, the true Inuit culture. The article also states how all the actors in the film were selected from the Inuit community where this movie was shot, which again goes against typical Hollywood production standards. Which is why one of my main praises was how genuine the performances by the actors were, all adding to the authenticity of this film.

The movie itself showed no discrimination, however, the development story of the movie did show the lack of respect the Canadian government had for aboriginals. In the article, the movie’s director stated to the Canadian government, “In the last ten years of professional film-making with our programs shown in 16 countries, no executive from Telefilm, has ever visited Igloolik to see where, how, and why we work as we do, to see for themselves our daily reality”. Clearly the government does not see this Inuit media project, which will help Inuit teenagers discover their past more and feel less depressed, as something that is important. While the government did give in and help fund the movie after some time, the amount of time and effort that was required to get the funding, shows how little the Canadian government still thinks of native people in my opinion.


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