Principal Cast: Benjamin Kunuk, Karen Ivalu, Jonah Qunaq
Language: Inuktitut with English subtitles
Runtime: 94 minutes
First come, first served starting 30 minutes before showtime.
A 1956 western that teamed John Wayne with director John Ford, The Searchers has long been revered as a Hollywood classic that revealed the racial codes underlying representations of American frontier life. Now, one of Canada’s greatest filmmakers has put his own distinctive stamp on Ford’s story of revenge by resituating the western within an Inuit context. Like his own much-admired ATANARJUAT: THE FAST RUNNER, the latest feature by Zacharias Kunuk combines a rich presentation of the traditions of the north with highly compelling storytelling. At the core of MALIGLUTIT is a drama about a man determined to exact payback on the villains who attacked his family and stole his wife. It may not feature any gunslingers in cowboy hats but it’s every bit as potent as any two-fisted tale of the old west.
Inspired this time not by oral legends or journals but by John Ford’s 1956 western The Searchers, Kunuk and Ungalaaq have hewed close to the basics of that plot while making a film very different in tone and feel. The Searchers is essentially a revenge film: in the original, a white girl was kidnapped by members of the Comanche nation; in Kunuk’s version, an Inuk woman is kidnapped by her own people. But it is the repercussions of these acts of violence that both films explore. Here, a family is torn apart in the vast spaces of the Arctic, when marauding men desperate for conquest break into an igloo with intent to kidnap. When the husband returns to find his home ransacked, he vows revenge.
Against a barren, wintry landscape, a band of maliglutit (“followers”) sets out to rescue the captives. It is an arduous journey across the tundra and, along the way, the theme changes from one of justifiable revenge to one of self-examination, as the film questions whether these hunters, ostensibly the heroes, have begun to act like those who have violated their family.
With a tale as timeless as the landscape in which it is set, Canada’s foremost Inuk filmmaker has provided us with another classic. — TIFF