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The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)

from Film Forum, 06/13/02

While recycled ideas continue to score box office success, more adventurous moviegoers are discovering and celebrating the arrival of a truly unique and groundbreaking experience: Atanarjuat—The Fast Runner. It's an adventure set in the Canadian arctic regions where the Inuit dwell in isolation from Western culture. The movie takes us into their world, where the viewer becomes accustomed to their ways of living, communicating, surviving in the harsh environment.

The filmmakers retell an Inuit folk tale about Atanarjuat and Amaqjuaq, two sons of a hunter who has been tormented by a wicked shaman who has taken over their camp. The sons save their family's dignity, but their talents—one is called The Strong One and the other The Fast Runner—kindle jealousy in the heart of the tribe leader's son Oki. When Oki and Atanarjuat vie for the affections of the same woman, things turn violent.

So far, only one religious press critic has reported on the film: "It is with good reason that Atanarjuat—The Fast Runner has met with international acclaim and attention," raves David Shepherd (Chiaroscuro) "This is the closest thing to a pure other-cultural experience currently afforded by modern film. The story and its universal themes … allow the film to transcend the barrier of culture and language. [The actors] imbue the characters with a true sense of their unique humanity, while conveying the full range of human experience from sorrow and tragedy, to joy and laughter. The intention of the filmmakers was to add to the stream of their people's oral history and 'to be compellingly visual, quietly intelligent, and surprisingly funny.' Mission accomplished."

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