Directed by Zacharias Kunuk, starring Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ivalu, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Lucy Tulugarjuk and Madeline Ivalu.
Historical document, chronicle of an indigenous culture or a lyrical fable of a nomadic race? If your type of film can be described as any of the above then 'The Fast Runner' is almost certainly tailor-made for your palate. If, on the other hand, you are like the vast majority of film fans and like your movies served with pace, action, drama and thought-provoking intelligence then the best advice would be to give this a miss. That's not to say that this epic made by and about the Inuit peoples of the Canadian arctic is not dramatic or intelligent, for it is. But when you stretch that action and intelligence over three hours then something has to give – probably your patience.
Based on the ancient Inuit legend of Atanarjuat (meaning the fast runner), the film is set at the end of the first millennium in the northern Canadian Arctic community of Igloolik. It focuses on two brothers, Atanarjuat and Amaqjuaq, who challenge the natural order of their camp and, in doing so, confront the evil that was imposed on the tribe by a shaman twenty years previously. The chain of events is unleashed after Atanarjuat wins the hand of Atuat, who has been promised to Oki, son of the tribal leader. Consumed by jealousy and rage, Oki and his men ambush the two brothers while they sleep. Amaqjuaq is impaled and killed but Atanarjuat, true to his name God bless him, flees over the ice and snow in his birthday suit. Given asylum by elder inuits, Atanarjuat recovers and eventually returns to the camp to put a stop to the squabbling…
You're probably finding it difficult to work out how on earth this film could run for three hours when the premise of the film can be explained in five lines. Join the club. Shot entirely on location in Igloolik, 'The Fast Runner' features some dazzling skylines and shots of the impressive and wholly unspoilt beauty of the unwelcoming landscape. But it's simply not enough. Critics (admittedly there aren't many) of 'Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship…' say that Jackson's epic is too long. Well, my advice to them would be to watch this and see how quickly your concept of time can be transformed.
By the virtue of the fact that it was even made, 'The Fast Runner' is a triumph for Igloolik and its people. Ultimately though, it's damn hard to see where this is going to get its audience.