Subtitled "The Fast Runner". This is a 3-hour Canadian film performed entirely in Inuit. It has won a number of awards, which is remarkable when you consider that the two main female characters were played by women who have never acted professionally before. The whole 1999 production is the work of a small Inuit company called Igloolik Isuma Productions, the brainchild of director Zacharias Kunuk.

Atanarjuat (four syllables) is the name of one of the main characters. The film involves a man's response to betrayal by neighbors who have been bewitched into evil-doing. The story is part of Inuit traditional lore and would probably be condemned as unsophisticated if it appeared in a more mainstream production. But I thought it was a fine picture, even if I was sore after sitting for three hours. The moral lessons of the story involve the need to place community over personal gain. I recommend this film especially for the extended exposure it gives to spoken Inuit as well as the details of daily life in Igloolik, a traditional Canadian Arctic settlement.

There is enough sex, nudity, demonic shamanism, and gore (including closeups of raw seal and caribou flesh) that you may want to spare your underage children. On balance, though, I give this film a high rating. My only real complaint is that the beginning of the story is somewhat unclear. There are important issues there (relating to the shamanistic setting and family relationships) that are hard to understand on one seeing. The three-hour version I saw (in New York, shortly after the local opening) seems to be missing many of the scenes described on the web-site involving spirit forces and contemplation.

I'm not sure if my backside can handle a second viewing any time soon. If this picture comes out on DVD, I can make my own intermissions.

A footnote about the names Inuit and Inuktitut has been moved to its own place under Inuktitut.