The Fast Runner,
PCs Latest Atrocity
day I watched the DVD of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner I had picked up
used at Blockbuster for less than $7. I wasted my money. I bought in
to the hype surrounding this very bad 2001 film. Virtually every review
on www.metacritic.com & www.rottentomatoes.com, the 2 largest film
review sites on the web, is fall-down, asskissingly praise-filled for
this film. Seeing the trailer, it seemed promising, & I had put
the film on my list of must gets when it came out on DVD.
But, the film is so bad on so many scores I can only surmise that a
PC need to be kind to the culture of Eskimos is behind the lavishment
of praise. This Canadian film won all its countrys honors? Lets
not forget that Canada does not call its aboriginal peoples American
(Canadian) Indians or Native Americans (Canadians), rather the PC numbingly
(& ultimately meaningless) First Nations; although the increasing
evidence that these First Nations actually conquered &
slaughtered the actual First Americans (represented by Kennewick Man
& similar archaeological findings) will doubtlessly lead to an even
more meaningless appellation in a decade or two. Accordingly, the Eskimo
culture has been re-termed Inuit, after one of several languages spoken
in the Canadian Arctic- a bit of Inuit cultural imperialism, eh?
I dont play those games- Ill call an Eskimo an Eskimo- a
term derived from yet another Native lingo. Do I call myself a gringo
because Mexicans do? Do I say I live in the EU (Estados Unidos) because
a Spaniard would associate that acronym with the USA, rather than the
European Union? Did we call the USSR the CCCP? Of course not - to hell
with semantics! My dashing of PC Elitism, however, is much in accord
with director Zacharias Kunuks dashing of competent filmmaking.
Gushing reviews praise the films look. Sorry, but the film
is actually shot in widescreen digital video, which makes the Arctic
glare all the harsher. Film would have softened the tones and given
the frozen wastes an Antonionian desolation. Still, the camerawork is
so amateurish I was agog. Even a layman like me understands visual composition
- ZK does not!
Instead of a cinema verité feel (watch the DVD of Narc
for a brilliant example of how thats done right) One feels that
a bunch of teenagers in Cancun could have done a better job in recording
their sex romps amd quarrels. The handheld visuals of the Arctic are
also rather dull. I recently bought a 10-DVD cheapie box of films for
$8. In it was an odd little early 1970's British film called Cry
Of The Penguins, with John Hurt and Hayley Mills. It was shot in
the Antarctic and its visuals are infinitely better. Atanarjuat is 2
hours, 40+ minutes long for a tale that, done by someone with a grasp
of narrative, could have been told in a 25 minute short- its that
ungodly bloated. The writing is atrocious - supposedly based on an eons-old
myth; this is PC shorthand to inform the gullible that this is a deep
and treasured tale to these people. If you diss it youre obviously
a racist imperialist fool. Sorry, purveyors of pap, Im not kowed.
The tale is a simpleminded morality play: the characters are dumb, superstitious
barbarians, and had this films director had a non-Inuit name attached
to it the film would have been relentlessly attacked for its racist
portrayal, not to mention flayed by Feminists for its degrading portrait
of the female Eskimos. Lets see: polygamy is OK, yet adulterers
deserve the death penalty, while the woman they fuck around with deserve
banishment from the village by their family, and women are meant to
merely cook, sew, take care of the babies, obey their husbands, etc.-
you get the point. But, wait, since this represents a unique
aboriginal culture any forward thinking individual has no right to judge
it for what it is- or was: a barbaric, lawless, misogynistic, testosterone-driven
culture of neoliths. Holy shit, am I channeling Gloria Steinem? Relax,
read on- I bash all around.
So, you say Cmon, its an indie film made by Eskimos to celebrate
their own. They had hardships. Well, even that does not wash- the films
budget was about $2 million! Ive never made a film, but give me
$2 million and I guarantee you I can top this film in every way, artistically-
starting with the atrocious script, and wooden actors.
Sorry, dont give me this limited pool of Eskimo actors
to choose from BS, nor the non-need to shoot the film in Inuktitut,
the Inuit language. Go to many of the reservations around North America,
get the best Indian actors, giveem parkas, talk in English and
I guarantee no one will notice the difference. How many multiplexes
are there in Yellowknife, anyway?
As for the story. This from the films official website http://www.atanarjuat.com/:
Igloolik, "place of houses," in the eastern arctic wilderness
at the dawn of the first millenium. Evil in the form of a mysterious,
unknown shaman enters a small community of nomadic Inuit and upsets
its balance and spirit of cooperation. The stranger leaves behind a
lingering curse of bitterness and discord: after the camp leader Kumaglak
is murdered, the new leader Sauri drives his old rival Tulimaq down
through mistreatment and ridicule.
Years pass. Power begins to change when the resentful Tulimaq has two
sons - Amaqjuaq, the Strong One, and Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner. As
the camp's best hunters they provoke jealousy and rage in their rival,
Oki, the leader's ill-tempered son.
When Atanarjuat wins away Oki's promised wife-to-be, the beautiful Atuat,
in a head punching competition, Oki vows to get even.
Egged on by his intimidating father, Oki and his friends plot to murder
both brothers while they sleep. Amaqjuaq is speared through their tent
and killed, but Atanarjuat miraculously escapes, running naked for his
life across the spring sea ice.
Eluding his pursuers with supernatural help, Atanarjuat is hidden and
nursed back to health by an old couple who themselves fled the evil
camp years before.
After an inner struggle to reclaim his spiritual path, and with the
guidance of his elder advisor, Atanarjuat learns to face both natural
and supernatural enemies, and heads home to rescue his family.
Will he continue the bloody cycle of revenge, or restore harmony to
Heres a real summary of Paul Apak Angilirqs script. The
first 90 minutes, detailing the Shamans arrival, the two brothers
growing up, rivalry with each other and Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq)
and his pals, could all have used a Lord Of The Rings-type 3 or 4 minute
condensation to start. Especially superfluous (and odious) is a scene
where Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq) stiffs Okis snow slut of a sister-
Puja (Lucy Tulugarjuk)- which seemingly means they are married, according
to Eskimo law. This is ruly pointless soft-core Eski-porno. The film
should start at the murder of Amaqjuaq (Pakkak Innukshuk), right after
he screws Puja & seeks Atanarjuats forgiveness, and where
Atanarjuat escapes Oki and two of his murderous homeys, dashes naked
across the ice fields, only to be saved by Okis long lost grand-uncles
family. In truth, even an Eskimo would be dead of hypothermia in less
than an hour of Arctic nudity- but this is art and one of the films
lesser sins. Oki has always had it in for Atanarjuat but mistakenly
kills Amaqjuaq, after Puja tells him Atanarjuat tried to kill her after
the adultery. Perhaps the only chuckle in the film comes from where
Atanarjuat is hidden in the seaweed bed-cum-outhouse of Okis grand-uncle,
only to be pissed upon by the searching Oki. His feet bloodied from
his escape, he survives, has visions- i.e.- loses his mind
and returns for a final showdown with Oki- who, in the meanwhile, had
engaged in a gang rape (mercifully offscreen) of Atanarjuats first
wife Atuat (Sylvia Ivalu)- his ex-fiancee.
No, there is no Shootout at the Oki Corral, nor anything of any involving
drama. In another gratuitous scene designed to highlight Eski T&A,
Atanarjuat returns to camp, strips Atuat in public and gives her a bitchin
new parka. He then plots to take out Oki, who has seemingly lost his
mind after murdering his own dad to ascend to tribal chiefdom and then
killing a weird rabbit- a bizarrely failed attempt at symbolism. Atanarjuat
gets his vengeance, but spares Oki and his boys. The trio, plus the
Skankskimo Puja, are then banished for their murderous and adulterous
ways. This only after the wacky old Shaman is summoned & defeated.
Boy, aint it great to know Eskimo culture is so uplifting &
worthy of preservation? Furthermore, no one including ZK, seems to know
when this tale is set. Some critics claim 100s or 1000s of years ago,
but clearly it takes place after Euro contamination, since
the Eskimos have steel blades & no pre-Euro knowledge of metallurgy.
But this is myth so even I can overlook this and many other
historical flaws. The dull tale, poor acting, amateur visuals, however,
I cannot. ZK is not an amateur filmmaker- having spent a quarter century
in documentary filmmaking. This film is nowhere in a class with that
other noted doc maker-turned-auteur Herk Harvey, and his brilliant 1962
Carnival Of Souls. The character development is so poor I had
to rewatch certain scenes to be sure of the characters relationships-
for example, on a first watch its nearly impossible to discern
that Atanarjuat & Puja are married after their soft core romp. Similarly,
Pujas hand in the murder of Amaqjuaq is only discernible upon
Still, the characters are utterly clueless of any depth to life beyond
sex and superstition, the director has no sense of narrative nor editing
skills, nor any ability to transcend stereotypes (just compare this
dreck to the delightful Native American comedy of a few years back-
Smoke Signals- with a strong script & well-developed characters
by Sherman Alexie.) The visuals are poorly constructed and dull,and
the score is predictably laced with mind-numbingly obvious chantsand
While not the worst film Ive ever seen, given its indie-artsy
buildup (generally more credible than flat-out Hollywood Oscar buzz),
I have to term Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner the most disappointing film
in a very long time. About the only positive thing about Eskimo culture
that can be discerned from this film is that they will not have to be
subjected to it- at least not for a few more centuries.
© Dan Schneider, Jan 2004
The Best in Poetica seeks great poems & essays!
Feedback to this review from Rob Desjardins" firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb 14th 2005
Is Dan 12 years old and does he have a membership to the KKK? I just
watched the film. Sorry Dan wasted less than $7 on the film, even used.
He apparently has no concept of time. He would probably use PC (how
many times does he use this 'word' in his review?) ethics on the cavemen
and burn a film about them (Quest for Fire might go for less
than $7). If he wants to rant about all things PC, and use that to judge
films by, then he should burn about 90 percent of all films ever made.
Ironically, he says he doesn't want to bow before a PC god, and yet
he mentions First Nations killing the First Americans, chats about the
role of women in this movie (again, regardless of a concept of time),
"Accordingly, the Eskimo culture has been re-termed Inuit, after
one of several languages spoken in the Canadian Arctic - a bit of Inuit
cultural imperialism, eh?", No there was no steel in this movie,
so no it wasn't before Europe conquered. Knives are made from bone.
Those wacky sunglasses are driftwood. "I can overlook this and
many other historical flaws"---does he know history? Have any concept?
Other things I loved from his pen:
"highlight Eski T&A"
"I was agog"
"One feels that a bunch of teenagers in Cancun could have done
a better job in recording their sex romps amd quarrels"---genius!
that's exactly what the film was about, and nothing more!
"the characters are dumb, superstitious barbarians" . . .
. if so, and if we are them, (some of us are human) why do four leaf
clovers, rabbits feet, and astrological columns appear even today?
ah, evolution (again, there's that concept of time coming back, past
vs present----same-same or totally different? does it matter?)
"If you diss it you're obviously a racist imperialist fool"---zeig
heil! "give me $2 million and I guarantee you I can top this film
in every way, artistically- starting with the atrocious script, and
wooden actors."---please someone give him 2 million----PLEASE!!!!!!!
Pauley Shore needs a career again and Dan would be perfect!ah well,
it would be so easy to go on, but . . . . . I'm almost off work and
if the boss catches me doing something as pointless and which wastes
time as much as commenting on bad reviewer's reviews . . . . . . at
least I'm doing this than playing mine sweeper.
Are reviews Dan's job? You mean his boss WANTED him to write that? And
he didn't get in shit?
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