You don’t need a dozen state of the art cameras to produce a good film, you just need a good place to point one.
The equipment reportedly covered in sheepskin for the north-Canadian shoot in well-below freezing temperatures, Maliglutit, in part not dissimilar to John Ford’s seminal western The Searchers, follows an Inuit man who returns to his home to discover his wife and daughter have been kidnapped.
Pursuing three Inuit men over the transfixing landscape, Maliglutit’s strength is not so much drawn from its straightforwardly compelling three-act structure but the more contemplative moments scattered throughout the film, as the Directors Zacharias Kunuk and Natar Ungalaaq allow the lens to rest on any number of spellbinding sites and vistas.
Whether sledding across a vast expanse, patiently plying away at daily chores or preparing for a night ensconced in shelters, themselves not a respite from the chilling conditions all too evident on the actors’ frozen faces, the lack of jump-cuts and selective use of music overloads the audience not with the likes of suspense stock-standard in dramas but the more measured, striking tones of a film that is in every sense irrevocably raw.
Set in the early 20th century, Maliglutit may as well be timeless; the lack of direct references to the precise time and place of the film itself conveying an arresting, roundly universal narrative of a man in desperate search of his family. Lacking the powerful story-arc or iconic features that made The Searchers such a success, from which Maliglutit clearly draws no small degree of inspiration, the film is nonetheless engaging for its patient perusal of a life unfamiliar to many, it’s most powerful moments resonating both from dramatic developments and the more subtlety compelling exchanges between characters navigating the terrain, or otherwise going about their lot alone.
As insightful as it is eye-catching, you won’t be want to turn your gaze from the screen and the film’s many riveting visuals. Thankfully, the filmmakers knew just when, and how sparingly, to temper the view.
Maliglutit is screening at the Sydney Film Festival – for tickets head to the Festival website