The Fast Runner
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

      Even though I'm Canadian, I can join most of you in saying that this is the first Inuit film I've ever seen. The Fast Runner has been the darling of the film festivals this year, winning awards from Cannes to Toronto. This film is a combination of Run Lola Run, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Himalaya. The Fast Runner is the retelling of an Inuit legend set in the distant past.  Two nomadic families are set at each other's throats by an evil shaman.  The feud carries on to a second generation when two brothers, Atanarjuat and Amaqjuaq, are tormented by a brother and sister, Oki and Puja,  from the other family.   Atanarjuat marries a nice woman, Atuat, but then also marries Puja while under an evil spell. The two wives don't get along and when Puja tries to seduce Atanarjuat's brother, all hell breaks loose.  Oki and his henchmen arrive to wreak revenge for the treatment of his sister. He's under an evil spell also. Anyway, Atanarjuat is able to escape because he is The Fast Runner.  This scene is very interesting for fans of full frontal male nudity. 

      Unfortunately, The Fast Runner is not a fast film. Its "running" time is 172 minutes and it drags a bit particularly at the beginning.  I’d say about an hour could have been left on the cutting room floor without detracting from the story.  At first, The Fast Runner is very difficult to follow.  The story develops very slowly.  And everyone is wearing many layers of sealskins making them all look alike. But as the film progressed, I was able to tell the two brothers and Oki apart, and things get more interesting.  The traditional nomadic life of the Inuit is lovingly portrayed and is fascinating to watch.  It involves lots of seals, sealskins, seal blubber and seal oil.  You get the idea.  When it’s time to get more seal stuff, the Inuit pile onto a dog sled and ride off over the ice.  It's cold, always cold and it's always daylight.  Even though the film is agonizingly slow at times, it grows on you, and as the denouement approaches I wanted to find out how this whole evil spell thing would work out.

     This is the first feature film made in Nunavut, the new Inuit territory in Canada.  The cast is a combination of experienced and first-time actors.  In general, they are all good, particularly Atanarjuat, Oki and Atuat.  The closing credits are interesting because they show some of the scenes of The Fast Runner being filmed.  Dolly shots were filmed from a sled being pushed along side the actors.  It’s hard to believe but there seemed to be a couple of scenes that didn’t make it into the movie.  It could have been even longer!  I had been looking forward to seeing The Fast Runner for a long time so my expectations were set a bit too high. It’s definitely worth seeing but be sure to go to the bathroom before it starts.