Berlinale-Blogger 2017
Native Stories

Native Stories
© Kingulliit Productions Inc.

The NATIVe programme of films from the Berlinale proved that the Arctic Circle is a cinematically rich world with a vast array of stories to tell.

The Berlinale has been running a programme of films dedicated to native communities for several years now. In 2017 their focus is on the indigenous people of the Arctic circle.

I’m always keen to try out something new and I know next to nothing about people such as the Sami or Inuit, so I carved out time in my festival schedule to broaden my cinematic intake. In total, I enjoyed three feature films and three accompanying shorts from this programme; my festival has been a richer experience for doing so.

My unfair suspicion was that these films would primarily be interesting as ethnographic documents. Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest, the opening film, seemed to confirm these prejudices. The feature was a compilation of footage taken of a Sami community between the 1930s and ‘60s and from an anthropological perspective it was fascinating. While watching grainy footage of life in Northern Finland projected onto an IMAX-size screen was magical, the rest of the film struggled under an unwieldy structure. I suspected that the rest of the festival would be more intriguing than cinematic.

Maliglutit (Searchers) and Angry Inuk soon put my fears to rest. The former is a fiction film that deliberately plays like an Inuit John Ford film. An early shot shows two Inuit framed by the curved door of an igloo, a neat twist on Ford’s classic image. Here, the main opponent to the Searcher is the landscape, an alien world of blank white plains and gorgeous, pearlescent light. Zacharias Tunuk’s film was thrilling, cine-literate and unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Angry Inuk, meanwhile, is one of the best films of the festival, a remarkable, even-handed look at the way that anti-seal hunting campaigners endanger the lives of Inuit. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s documentary is everything that an issue-driven doc should be; its processes are transparent and its conclusions undeniable.

Watching this diverse selection of films quickly demonstrated to me that there are a whole host of stories to tell from the Arctic Circle and there is a rich pool of talent ready and willing to tell them.