Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner 2001


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(18) IMDb 7.5/10

Shot on digital video, this version of an old Inuit legend tells of the damage done when a cruel shaman unleashes a malevolent spirit in the midst of an Inuit community. Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner, and Amaqjuaq, the Strong One, are the two sons of Tulimaq, a man who was originally intended to become community leader, but who lost his place after the intervention of the shaman. When Atanarjuat wins the hand of Atuat from rival suitor Oki, the son of the community leader installed by the evil shaman, this continues the dispute between the two families and leads to further discord. Oki uses his sister Puja to deceive Atanarjuat and mount an attack on the camp he shares with his brother Amaqjuaq; the Fast Runner luckily survives the onslaught, but will he be able to find a way to bring an end to this legacy of violence?

Sylvia Ivalu, Natar Ungalaq
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Product Details

  • Feature ages_15_and_over
Runtime 2 hours 48 minutes
Starring Sylvia Ivalu, Natar Ungalaq, Lucy Tulugarjuk, Madeline Ivalu, Peter Henry Arnatsiaq
Director Zacharias Kunuk
Genres Drama
Studio ICA
Rental release 7 December 2009
Main languages inuktitut
Subtitles English

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 24 Mar. 2004
Format: DVD
A beautiful film about social responsibility and how people live together. The film is acted and directed by Inuit people, and, in their harsh but stunning environment, living together is a skill necessary for survival.
Oki, the son of the group's leader, bullies his way through life. Atanarjuat falls in love with Atuat, the woman promised to Oki. When they get together, Oki is out for revenge. Oki and his brothers murder Atanarjuat's brother, and then turn their attention to Atanarjuat - this leads to a breathtaking, toe-curling chase across the icy land, with Atanarjuat running for his life, stark naked.
Despite the cold, the human relationships are warm and touching. The actors are beautiful and the film presents a wealth of information about traditional Inuit life without being preachy. The images and the story will stay with you for a long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 April 2007
Format: DVD
"Evil came to us like death and we just had to live with it," says the legend teller. The Fast Runner is a powerful, fascinating film about an Inuit community of less than two dozen people, living their lives above the Arctic Circle anywhere from a thousand to a couple hundred years ago. Their world is made up of vast frozen tundra and endless snow combined with the claustrophobia of living together in such close quarters that there are no secrets. Their survival and happiness depend on everyone living together in harmony. When the leadership of this group is assumed under questionable circumstances, when a rival is humiliated and when power is worked unfairly, evil descends on the group. The feelings of envy, ambition and lust which lead to murder may be familiar to anyone in any culture; how this plays out in such a small group of people and in such cold, severe conditions turns this movie into a unique and engrossing experience.

Saari is the leader of the group. He has a son, Oki (Peter-Henry Amatsiaq), and a daughter, Puja (Lucy Tulugarjuk). Tulmaq, now dead, had been a rival for leadership long ago, but had been humiliated until his spirit was broken. He had two sons, Amaqjuaq, who was called the Strong One, and Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq), who was called the Fast Runner. Oki has grown to be a bully. As a child he and Ayuat (Sylvia Ivalu) were promised to each other, but now she and Atanarjuat have fallen in love. Oki and Atanarjuat settle the issue in a brutal fight. In front of the group, they stand facing each other. Then they take turns deliberately hitting each other on the side of the head as powerfully as they can. The one who fails to get up loses, and that is Oki. From then on we see how Oki's resentments and envy, and his sister's own trouble-making, lead to murder.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By F. Sweet on 24 Aug. 2006
Format: DVD
This movie is not to be missed! It is original and refreshingly uncompromising in its intensity. Virtually the entire production staff and cast are Inuit -- native Eskimos of the Northwest Territories. Where to begin?

The director Zacharias Kunuk, when he was a boy, he first heard the thousand-year-old legend of Atanarjuat. "You never forget that image of this naked man running on the ice," he said at a recent interview. "You wonder what's going through his head, and you never want to experience it." But we're getting ahead of the story. In Kunuk's presentation, THE FAST RUNNER defies clichés and stereotypes about Inuit culture. Not only that, but evidence of the film's sophistication and excellence is that in 2002 it had been awarded the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. However, it badly reflects on our "culture" that THE FAST RUNNER has made a mere $2-million at the box office -- while a summer series of trashy, loud, mindless action-adventure flicks have raked it in by the tens of millions. But I digress.

This is an epic account of an 11th-century Inuit blood feud, that had been shot on digital video in northernmost Canada. They shot on location a hundred miles or more above the Arctic Circle. The scene is eerily and spectacularly beautiful. The scene is also mysterious, sensual, emotionally intense.

The movie is universal in recounting: love, desire, sexual betrayal, rape, jealousy, intrigue, murder, patricide, revenge, exorcism, mental telepathy, and fate. There is so much crammed into this epic tale that the three hours go by without notice. It is amazing that Zacharias Kunuk could squeeze so much life into ONLY three.hours. Yet all of this is played out in a single Inuit clan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Besom on 20 Jan. 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
An extraordinary film - written, produced and acted by Innuit people. It's hard to get into because the start of the film does not establish well enough the idea that a curse has been visited on a native Innuit community (in a long ago historical period), so it's hard to understand what is going on at first - or who anyone is. It only really takes off when the two sons of one of the families that has been cursed grow up. The film is very long but it's worth hanging in there as it will captivate you soon enough. It has some of the most spectacular visuals you could ever hope to see and very interesting acting by a mixture of professional actors and local talent. It successfully integrates magic realism into a classic narrative arc and there is one scene which is simply astounding and I still don't know how the actor survived the filming of it - but I won't give it away. I want everyone to see this film but I suspect it really wotks best on a large screen. I saw it in a cinema first time round and was mesmerised - I didn't notice the length. I have always wanted it on DVD but when I tried to watch the DVD on a computer screen it did not have the same power to transfix. I imagine this is because the incredible white infinity of the landscape needs scaled up to fully appreciate it. My friends then projected it on a large wall and it was brilliant. We watched it as a group over New Year - as if we were in a cinema. We are still talking about it. A great buy.
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