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Old July 23rd, 2002, 08:04 AM   #1
 
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Atanarjuat:The Fast Runner

I just saw a screening of "Atanarjuat:The Fast Runner", filmed entirely in digital, directed, produced, filmed and acted by an Inuit crew. This movie won the Camera d' Or at Cannes. The scenes are awesome and the story is captivating. If anyone gets the chance to see it, don't miss the opportunity. I should note that its almost 3 hours in length!

Don't let anyone ever say that DV isn't capable of winning at a film festivel.
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Old July 23rd, 2002, 09:50 AM   #2
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Was it shot by professionals, semi-profs or wannabe profs? Any
chance you know what it was shot on? Any websites?
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Old July 23rd, 2002, 11:45 AM   #3
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Re: Adarnajuat:The Fast Runner

<<<-- Originally posted by billravens : I just saw a screening of "Adanarjuat:The Fast Runner", filmed entirely in digital, directed, produced, filmed and acted by an Inuit crew. This movie won the Cannes de Or at Cannes. The scenes are awesome and the story is captivating. If anyone gets the chance to see it, don't miss the opportunity. I should note that its almost 3 hours in length! -->>>

I saw it last year at the Vancouver International Film Festival and I was very impressed. The DVCam to 35mm transfer was made by Vancouver's Digital Film Group who have an excellent website if you're interested in DV to film transfers.

Atanarjuat was filmed on location .. what beautiful scenery. The stark contrasts in the ice and sun were made for DV as far as I'm concerned. The only parts where DV really fell down was in the inside shots which were lit by fire. Then the 'pixels' in the shadows were very much apparent and it looked like video.

Of course, it helped that the story was actually very captivating.

Zacharias Kunuk has become a celebrity in Canada (if you pay any attention to culture in Canada, that is) because of this film and rightfully so.

A very inspirational movie for me too, as you can tell, that I would put up there with Thomas Vinterberg's "Festen" as excellent examples of what DV can do.
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Old July 23rd, 2002, 12:13 PM   #4
 
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Rob...

FYI, a quick google search provided this website...there's a very good flash trailer at that site:

http://www.atanarjuat.com/
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Old July 23rd, 2002, 01:29 PM   #5
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For all the other people, the direct URL to the 13 MB QuickTime
trailer (large version) is: http://www.atanarjuat.com/trailerhi.mov
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Old August 10th, 2002, 08:27 AM   #6
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<<<-- Originally posted by Rob Lohman : Was it shot by professionals, semi-profs or wannabe profs? Any
chance you know what it was shot on? Any websites? -->>>

Rob:

The DP was Norm Cohn, a New York-based videographer and the only non-Inuit in the crew. Budget was about $1.3 million US and it was shot on a Sony DVW-700-WS (the $150,000 widescreen Betacam that Lucas used for the current Star Wars film), which explains the brilliant detail and color.

The most interesting part of the film is that it was shot in NTSC, not PAL.

The film is long (three hours) but beautiful. Played here in the Washington area (two theater) for about a month.

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Old March 6th, 2003, 11:51 AM   #7
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Interesting critique of Atanarjuat

The critic here isn't saying it's a bad movie, but that it misrepresents the myth.

http://www.prospect.org/webfeatures/2003/02/shubow-j-02-28.html

Cold Comfort
The misrepresentation at the center of The Fast Runner

By Justin Shubow
Web Exclusive: 2.28.03
Print Friendly | Email Article

Since late last summer, The Fast Runner, the first feature-length movie made almost wholly by the aboriginal people of the Arctic, has been playing to packed houses. Released on DVD earlier this month, the film tells the story of an ancient Inuit legend and unsentimentally portrays the hard, grimy life of some of the region's native residents. Audiences weren't the only ones to embrace the film: Expressing an enthusiasm that characterized many reviews of the movie, The Washington Post's Desson Howe wrote that the film was "as close to authentic myth as cinema has ever gotten." In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: During the more than six months since the film's release, it seems to have gone almost completely unnoticed -- by reviewers and audiences alike -- that at the film's core is a crucial lie.

To be sure, The Fast Runner, deserved the accolades it received. It skillfully avoids caricature or stereotype, and depicts the Inuit not as noble savages but rather as a people as capable of nobility and savagery as any other. Yet when I watched the film, one particular scene -- crucial to the Inuit myth on which the story is based -- struck me as oddly misleading.

Following his return home from involuntary exile -- after barely escaping an attempt on his life -- the film's protagonist, Atanarjuat, has the opportunity to avenge the murder of his brother and the rape of his wife. He cunningly sets up the three culpable men so that they are utterly at his mercy. After knocking down his nemesis -- the group's ringleader who is both a murderer and rapist -- Atanarjuat raises a bone club and strikes. Except instead of the evil man's skull, he smashes the ice just next to it. Atanarjuat exclaims, "The killing stops now!" -- proving that he could have taken revenge but chose not to do so. Thus we are meant to believe that a 1,000-year-old Inuit myth of lust, betrayal and violence climaxes with a surprisingly pacifistic turn.

I just didn't buy it. Knowing some basic world myths, I was expecting vengeance akin to Odysseus' bow-and-arrow heroics during his homecoming. Moreover, in a society such as the Inuit's -- one without laws, police or prisons -- violent retribution would have not only been highly likely, it also might have been justified.

And my hunch was right. I discovered that the original legend ends -- to use the words of Norman Cohn, one of the film's producers -- "with everybody's brains all over the floor." I asked Zacharias Kunuk, the film's director, whether the movie alters the Inuit myth. "The only thing that we changed was the ending," he said. "In the actual story Atanarjuat smashes [the villains'] heads." Explaining the decision, he said, "Every generation has their version. It was a message more fitting for our times. Killing people doesn't solve anything."

Apparently only two publications -- The Toronto Sun and RES Magazine -- noted the change. Given that one is a tabloid with only the fourth-largest circulation in Toronto and the other is an obscure magazine devoted to digital filmmaking, it should come as no surprise that this crucial plot change has gone unnoticed by most members of the public. Even the film's otherwise detailed press kit does not mention the alteration.

Why does this change matter? After all, screenwriters routinely take great liberties in their adaptations, and most moviegoers realize that nondocumentary films rarely adhere to literal truths. But there are reasons to think that this change is particularly problematic. For one thing, the film was intended as an indelible document to preserve an oral tradition -- and as such, it presents itself as painstakingly authentic. The press kit boasts, "Elders commented on every stage of the scriptwriting process for cultural accuracy, sharpening language and explaining relations and motivations not immediately apparent in today's more modernized culture." Indeed, one of the filmmakers' motivations for producing The Fast Runner was to remedy false depictions of the Inuit in prior films. And yet the altered climax is an inaccurate portrayal of Inuit culture: The original ending of the legend precisely matches what anthropologists report about premodern Inuit -- that murder always required blood vengeance.

I asked Kunuk whether he was concerned that the ending would create misconceptions about the Inuit. "No, not really," he replied. "Other people could do the same, could film their own version of the myth." Yet for most viewers, The Fast Runner is likely to represent their lone exposure to the legend -- and perhaps to all of Inuit culture. It would be as if a student spent only one day learning about Norse mythology and was told that the gods and giants peacefully resolved their differences instead of mutually destroying each other.

Let's give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that their decision to change the ending was likely motivated by good intentions. "Our film warns against extreme chauvinism," Cohn told The San Francisco Examiner. "It articulates as clearly as possible the price of embracing vengeance. The logical conclusion of vengeance is that we're all going to die." But could it be that the filmmakers weren't consciously aware of all the reasons for the changes they made? That the villains are not only spared in the movie but are actually forgiven by the mother of the rape victim suggested to me the influence of Christianity, which missionaries brought to the formerly shamanist Inuit. In fact, noting that shamanism has been "a very touchy subject" since the introduction of Christianity, Kunuk told me that the Inuit community had qualms about depicting its former religion on screen: "Everybody wants to go to heaven," he said. "Everyone now knows there is hell." Asked whether the altered ending -- and specifically its emphasis on forgiveness -- represented the influence of a Christian worldview, Kunuk paused briefly. "Probably, probably," he replied.

But though the film's uplifting message might appeal to modern-day Inuit -- and to us -- it is profoundly misleading to imply that forgiveness had any role in the original myth. It is of course the artistic prerogative of any filmmaker to whitewash a historical myth with the veneer of contemporary morality, and Hollywood screenwriters do it all the time. But the producers of The Fast Runner sold their work as wholly authentic. And most moviegoers were never the wiser.

Justin Shubow is a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Michigan
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Old March 6th, 2003, 12:33 PM   #8
 
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Geeez...talk about rehashing old news....nevertheless, I think the issue I originally put forth was that this was a technically well done DV production, at a time when DV format was less de rigeur.
I really was not intending to target political or aesthetic considerations/issues.
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Old March 6th, 2003, 01:13 PM   #9
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Sorry, Bill, did you think that last post was in specific reply to what you said? Because it wasn't.
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Old March 6th, 2003, 02:38 PM   #10
 
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Not to worry, Keith. Thanks, tho' for providing some input.
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Old March 6th, 2003, 07:35 PM   #11
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Thanks to Keith Loh for the fascinating report. I remember at the time of viewing the film that I thought the "mercy" aspect played false to me, but hey, it was just a legend, so, whatever. But the convolulted thinking of the filmmakers in ignoring the original plot is very interesting. I am against capital punishment, but I can understand how hundreds of years ago in a more primitive time, an "eye for an eye" was the prevailing attitude and did not mean someone exacting vengence was doomed to "hell" for his actions. But why modern filmmakers feel a need to "clean up history" is certainly food for discussion.

As for the film, I felt it was way long. And those people need some green in their diet.
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Old March 6th, 2003, 08:11 PM   #12
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We just saw it a couple of nights ago. An amazing film, beautifully shot, as others have said. However, it was immediately obvious to me (within the first minutes) that it was a film transfer from DV.
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Old March 7th, 2003, 10:42 AM   #13
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How merciful was the change, though? In that kind of place these people depend upon each other for survival. Once you exile someone from the group their chances for prospering diminish.
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Old March 11th, 2003, 06:06 AM   #14
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Shot in DV?

I was not under the impression that this was a DV to film transfer.

The film was shot with a Digital Betacam camera. That's a big step in quality above DV.

Why does everyone keep saying this was a film that originated on DV?
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Old March 11th, 2003, 07:21 AM   #15
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There is an article with all the technical details here:
http://videosystems.primediabusiness.com/ar/video_digital_arctic/index.htm

Quote: <<New York cinematographer Norman Cohn used Sony's DVW-700WS, a digital Betacam camera that supports widescreen. “At the time we bought it in early 1998,” Cohn says, “it was the best portable video camera available in the world — the first digital Betacam with obvious advantages over previous analog SP. It was also first with a 16:9 widescreen option, and we liked that feature at the time, knowing we may have a possible transfer to film in the future of our productions.”>>

The transfer was beautifully done (and further proof that you don't necessarily need progressive frame acquisition to go to film).
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