Topic film journal
The term “Inuit” like the term “American Indian” or “Native American” refers to a diverse group of indigenous peoples living in the territories of the Arctic which were colonized by the Europeans (French and British) and later became the nation we know as Canada. The Inuit film, “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner” was made in 2001, 2 years after literally centuries of battles with the Canadian government over land rights finally successfully led to the founding of an Inuit sovereign homeland, Nunavut (the Inukitut term for our land). “Atanarjuat” was produced by an Inuit film company, with an almost all Inuit production staff, with all Inuit actors, for the Inuit peoples. The film recreates the story of “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner,” an ancient legend that had been previously told by grandmothers and grandfathers as “oral history” to Inuit children.
Write an essay about the film and the values embodied in the legend (as represented in the film). Include in your essay a discussion of the following (in any order):
•What life lessons and values do grandparents and elders hope to pass down to the next generation of Inuit by telling this story or showing this film to their children?
•How are these lessons or values represented in the film? Provide examples.
•Huhndorf (2003) provides a brief history of European colonization of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. In what ways do the Europeans’ practices and treatment of the Inuit peoples resemble their practices and treatment of indigenous peoples elsewhere?
•According to Huhndorf (2003), the film serves to help revive traditions, languages, and practices of the Inuit peoples. What is the basis of Huhndorf’s argument? Explain.
•In ways is the film “political”?
•Huhndorf (2003) argues that the film “Atanarjuat” represents the integration and intertwining of culture, history and politics. Explain what she means and discuss the evidence she provides.
•Explain how the film “Ataranjuat” blurs the boundaries between fiction and documentary.
•What are the implications of the film for contemporary Inuit life?
•According to Ginsburg (2003), what immediate impact did the film have on contemporary Inuit life?
•According to Ginsburg (2003) and Huhndorf (2003), in what ways does the film represent continuity between the past and the future?
•According to Ginsburg (2003), what does “visual sovereignty” mean and why is “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner” a good example of visual sovereignty?
“Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner,”
Culture defines who we are and without it people seem lost in the world of today. The legend of Atanarjuat tells a story set in the snowy arctic about the Inuit people commonly known as “Eskimos”. According to Huhndorf (2003), the story is embodied with important lessons that can prove to be helpful for the future generations and they include the caution against evil as it may occur when someone’s ambition is put before the greater good of the society. This can lead to dangerous deeds that can bring suffering not only to the individual, but also the society at large. Another lesson is about the power and authority of community leaders and caution is given of the consequences of defiance to these leaders. In the story, Oki and Sauri are overcome with hate for Ataut marrying Atanarjuat and plot for his downfall by introducing a seductress Puja. The banishment of Iko and their friends from Igloolik due to disobedience and tyranny is a form of punishment for defying village leaders (Huhndorf, 2003).
The culture and way of life of the indigenous communities is often misrepresented, commoditized and their indigenous identities are distorted as the colonizers see their culture as authoritative. The colonizers usually aim to change the way of life of indigenous people so that they conform to their “civilized” ways. However the movie gives the Inuit people the power to tell their own story in their own language, traditions, culture and setting in the film.
Huhndorf, (2003) argues that the Atanarjuat film helps strengthen the cause of the Native American Representation council about the debate of the proper authority to express native people perspectives. This movie urges the Inuit people not to abandon their traditions and culture and also it helps communicate these ideas to the rest of the world. The film furthers Nunavut independence campaign with the Inuit people wanting to tell their stories in their own language and through native cast. Atanarjuat movie helps intertwine and integrate culture, politics and history as it shows the Inuit people should have the authority to interpret their society in their own terms without the influence of Euro-Canadians (Huhndorf, 2003).
Atanarjuat provides an emphasis of the contemporary relevance and values of Inuit like spirituality and past cultural practices. The film is seen as a counter to the government instigated cultural loss through policies and legislation. The movie restructures the world of Inuit that is unmarred by the losses and dislocation of colonialism and therefore acts as an identity reconstruction (Huhndorf, 2003).
“Visual sovereignty” can be considered as the ability by an indigenous community to make their own movies and videos that speak for them in order to dispel the common stereotypes concerning a community and aid in preservation of native culture. Atanarjuat does this with its native cast, using non-scripted dialogue to communicate a native legend of the Inuit people that is not influenced by western ideologies and opinions (Huhndorf, 2003). Also the film dramatizes the social relations in traditions, ceremonial rituals and marriage and brings vivid images of direct connection to the magical world. The film provides a connection of the past and the future through dialogue and narratives and conveys therefore the persistence of traditional practices and values and imparting of the knowledge of traditions. Atanarjuat captures this knowledge in visual format and will be useful for future generations in learning about their past (Huhndorf, 2003).
The telling of native stories should not be done on the context and perceptions of the West but from the natives’ point of view. Many cultures have been lost as they are absorbed in the “modern” world which generalizes and integrates cultures into one. Films like Atanarjuat should be made to immortalize culture in digital media and preserve the diversity of cultures.
Huhndorf, S. (2003).Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner: Culture, History, and Politics in lnuit Media. American Anthropologist, 105(4), 822-826.