Guest Movie Review: The Journals of Knud Rasmussen
The Journals of Knud Rasmussen
Directed by Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn. Starring Pakak Innuksuk, Leah Angutimarik, Samueli Ammaq. Opening Friday Sept. 29th at ??????????????????? Cinemas.
By Jack Vermee
With a less robust, straightforward narrative than their debut art-house hit Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn’s sophomore feature is a more challenging work. The title is a bit of a misnomer—while the film is based on the Danish ethnographer’s records of his time among the Inuit in the 1920s, Kunuk and Cohn choose to dramatize Rasmussen’s writings from an Inuit point of view, with only the occasional nod to their source in the form of a few scenes with the Dane and a European colleague. The majority of the movie is in the vein of Atanarjuat—location shooting, age-old Inuit rituals brought to life, much singing and humour, and the odd bout of (here otherworldly) sex—but the goal in Journals is to depict and eventually mourn the beginning of the end of the traditional Inuit way of life.
It would have been easy for Kunuk and Cohn to rest on their laurels and make another myth-based film like Atanarjuat, but Journals is a logical, if risky, artistic move forward. Their story of Avva (Pakak Innuksuk), the last Inuit shaman, and his headstrong daughter Apak (Leah Angutimarik) shows the destructive encroachment of the white man — and Christianity — on old Inuit ways. Elliptical in structure (something that may frustrate less patient viewers) and containing a surfeit of song, the film has a cumulative power that pays off in spades in its final act. As the sole internationally known filmic keepers of the Inuit flame, one can’t help but wish Kunuk and Cohn well — and look forward to what they will come up with next.