"Atanarjuat" Is Released

Atanarjuat is a 2001 Canadian film directed by Zacharias Kunuk.

It is also released as Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, which translates the title. Atanarjuat was the first feature film ever to be written, directed and acted entirely in Inuktitut, the language of Canada's Inuit people.

Set in the ancient past, the film retells an Inuit legend passed down through centuries of oral tradition. In a community already split by rivalry and lust for power, an evil shaman arrives to redouble the pain by committing a murder and placing a curse. The curse plays out through the lives of the characters, until spiritual forces and raw human courage begin the process of healing, growth, and confrontation.

Produced by Kunnuk's production company, Isuma Igloolik Productions, the film was Canada's top-grossing release of 2002, outperforming the mainstream comedy Men With Brooms. In 2004, it was included in the Toronto International Film Festival's list of Canada's Top Ten Films of All Time.

This epic, the first feature film made in the Inuit language, is not merely an interesting document from a far-off place; it is a masterpiece. Zacharias Kunuk's adaptation of an ancient folk-tale, which won the Camera d'Or for best first feature at last year's Cannes International Film Festival, is much more than an ethnographic curiosity. It is, by any standard, an extraordinary film, a work of narrative sweep and visual beauty that honors the history of the art form even as it extends its perspective. The story about a vendetta that threatens the happiness of the hero and the stability of his nomadic, seal-hunting clan, takes a while to establish itself, but it has the clarity and the power common to epics from the sagas of ancient Scandinavia to the westerns of the old Hollywood. Austere and violent, the movie is also touched by humor and sensuality, and full of unforgettable images of the blinding Arctic landscape. Mr. Kunuk and his cast have accomplished the remarkable feat of endowing his archetypal characters from with complicated psychological motives and responses. The combination of dramatic realism and archaic grandeur is irresistibly powerful. — A. O. Scott, The New York Times