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Robert J. Flaherty’s documentary from 1922 looking at Inuit culture, Nanook of the North, is widely regarded a classic. So it will come as a momentous occasion that this film in many ways is modern day coverage of the issue. Village at the End of the World is a beautifully shot film that covers its subject with admirable distance (The directors turn the camera at one point) but frank insight. The film from Brick Lane’s Sarah Gavon and Dowton Abbey’s David Katznelson is a non-fiction film that is driven by its real-life characters.
The main focuses of the film are four people from the village (59 people in all live there) and in that regard some peoples stories engage more. The main issue here is how, even in one of earth’s furthest corners, consumerism and industry are present. The village’s fish factory is vital to its survival and its closure is devastating. The villager’s attempts to re-open and purchase it, make for a story of community, with ‘unity’ in bold. The film also focuses on the traditions of the Niaqornat culture (particularly hunting). In many ways the visceral nature of which it does so, will affect certain audiences enjoyment of the film. Particularly anyone with a love of Narwhals and Polar Bears, that said there is something to be said for humans hunting to survive over hunting for sheer sport.
The main four villagers focused on are teenager Lars, 70-odd year old Annie (oldest lady in the village), Karl the hunter and waste disposal man Ilannguaq. Lars’ story is the most heartfelt without doubt, as the young man admits, “it is lonely being a teenager here”. His story is charming and interesting, his family situation (lives with grandparents, works at shop with mother and lives next door to father) fascinating and his cheeky charm appealing. As Lars checks his Facebook before collecting fresh Narwhal meat, we have a staggering personification of how far the culture has come and yet how it embraces traditional values.
Village at the End of the World is brilliantly shot, directed with restraint when appropriate and depth when allowed and overall is a very age-old story with a contemporary makeover. The film stands as a testament as to how the modern world evolves and yet, in certain sectors, stays precisely the same. Modern issues of global warming, pollution and excess may be only brought up briefly but there are plenty of issues here for those wanting depth and despite some animal violence, an overall enjoyable documentary.
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