The Journals Of Knud Rasmussen
Stars: Pakak Innukshuk
Director: Zacharias Kunuk
*** 1/2 (out of five)
The Genie Award-winning 2001 film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner exposed the art house film world to Inuit culture in grand fashion.
Director Zacharias Kunuk’s follow-up The Journals Of Knud Rasmussen, picks up where its predecessor left off, only this time through the eyes of the titular Danish ethnographer and Aua, the last great Inuit shaman.
It was during the 1920s that Rasmussen ventured to the Canadian Arctic to document Inuit history and culture through a series of journals that meticulously recorded conversations with individuals from the community of Igloolik.
But Rasmussen was in a unique position to observe local culture because he was able to communicate with the Inuit in their own language and used that ability to his advantage to delve into the psyche his various interview subjects.
The film weaves the exact dialogue recorded in those journals — covering all aspects of the Inuit people’s lives — to outline the plight of their oral history with the introduction of Christianity into the community.
As Christian values were adopted, Inuit religion and culture were largely lost and the community was forever changed.
The film, co-directed by Atanarjuat cinematographer and producer Norman Cohn, features cinematography as detailed and rich as in his earlier work, with long pans of the stark landscape showcasing its barren beauty and harshness, and even longer scenes of dialogue between the Danish ethnographers and their subjects.
Journals succeeds in its blend of mysticism and historical fact to outline the plight of a 4,000-year-old culture reduced to poverty in a mere generation, as old traditions and an oral history were lost and a people were left with a new religion, but a remarkably weak social structure.
The film lags in sections to the point of tedium. But Journals is an impressive piece of art — its main raison d’etre.