Beyond the Canon—Maliglutit + The Searchers

the idea can be no secret of which the cinema canon has historically skewed toward lionizing the white, male auteur. Beyond the Canon can be a monthly BAMcinématek series of which seeks to question of which history as well as broaden horizons by pairing one much-loved, highly regarded, canonized classic having a thematically or stylistically-related—as well as equally brilliant—work by a filmmaker traditionally excluded by of which discussion. This kind of month’s double feature pairs Zacharias Kunuk as well as Natar Ungalaaq’s Maliglutit (2016) with John Ford’s The Searchers (1956).

Maliglutit (courtesy of Isuma) + The Searchers (courtesy of Warner Bros.)

By Jesse Wente

“I wanted the idea to be a western genre movie made entirely the Inuit way.” —Zacharius Kunuk

Despite rather obvious similarities, namely the title as well as central kidnapping plot, the idea can be overly simplistic to describe Inuit directors Zacharius Kunuk’s as well as Nataar Ungaalaq’s Maliglutit (Searchers) as a remake of John Ford’s iconic western The Searchers. Even calling the idea a reimagining falls short of capturing how Kunuk’s film upends the very tradition of which birthed a film such as Ford’s. To understand the key difference between the two can be to confront the disparity in world view of which exists between Indigenous peoples as well as the colonial nation states of which at This kind of point occupy their lands.

Both films share a similar story, based (in Ford’s case loosely) on true events. A young woman can be kidnapped, as well as a search party can be dispatched to hunt down the kidnappers as well as their prize. Ford’s story takes place inside the late 1860s in what can be at This kind of point West Texas, yet at the time was the Comancheria, the vast territory of the Comanches, Kiowa, as well as several some other nations. Kunuk’s film can be set inside the early 20th century in a remote part of Nunavut, inside the far north of Canada. Each film revels inside the expansive landscape, often positioning characters against the endless land. Ford favors framing his characters in doorways, suggesting the gateway by civilization to savagery, while Kunuk prefers to prioritize the land itself, his subjects often dots against its vastness.

Maliglutit. Courtesy of Isuma

However, the nature of those landscapes speaks to the difference in filmmaking approach as well as intended audience. Ford’s landscape can be a work of fiction, the film shot on a studio backlot as well as in his familiar Monument Valley setting in what can be at This kind of point Arizona as well as Utah, a topography of which in no way resembles the story’s West Texas setting. Likewise, Ford’s Comanches are largely played by Navajo performers. Kunuk’s film was wholly shot in Igloolik—as close as possible to the physical place where the true events might have taken place—using Inuit actors for all of the roles, as well as shooting the film entirely in Inuktitut.

Ford’s The Searchers was the director’s ninth film with his star John Wayne, as well as was meant to be something of a departure for the two as a western. Ford intended the film to be a damning indictment of American racial policy towards Native Americans, with his hero Wayne (playing Ethan Edwards) as the face of of which genocidal villainy, just as Wayne was the embodiment of Manifest Destiny inside the duo’s first film together, Stagecoach (1939). Wayne’s presence as well as swaggering performance made the idea nearly impossible for audiences to accept him as the bad guy, with Max Steiner’s score highlighting the real heroes as well as villains. (Hint: the Comanches are not the heroes.)

Kunuk’s Searchers also features a collaboration with his longtime friend as well as star Natar Ungalaaq, who starred in Kunuk’s breakthrough hit, the epic Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2002). yet Kunuk casts the heroes as well as villains within families—This kind of can be personal politics, not colonial conflict, a retelling of a community story rather than a grand political statement. Kunuk also enlisted Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq to provide the film’s haunting score.

The Searchers. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Kunuk’s work can be always rooted in community in a way of which non-Indigenous movies, let alone large budget studio productions, rarely are. Kunuk pays unflinching attention to detail, enlisting his community’s artisans as well as craftspeople to create the physical elements of the film inside the traditional way. This kind of attempt at uncompromising authenticity suggests both the director’s desire for realism, yet also the cultural preservation central to his work as well as ideology. His movies are reciprocal, both in telling stories never told onscreen before, yet also in helping to maintain the cultural practices often depicted within them. Kunuk makes his films for his own community, far removed by the commercial demands of a studio, as well as as such his work stands as truthful representations of stories as well as people. Ford’s The Searchers may excel in its artifice as well as craft, yet can be nonetheless rooted in colonial deception.

Kunuk’s devotion to the “Inuit way” means his films exist alongside the communities they depict, as living documents of contemporary practice as much as displays of traditional stories as well as existence. Kunuk’s Searchers can be an example of what a decolonized Western can be, except of which in This kind of case, the idea might be a Northern.

BAMcinématek screens Beyond the Canon—Maliglutit + The Searchers on June 16, 2018 at 2pm, BAM Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn.

Jesse Wente can be an Ojibwe writer, broadcaster, producer, as well as speaker born as well as raised in Toronto. He spent 11 years with the Toronto International Film Festival, the last seven as the Head of TIFF Cinemathèque, as well as recently became the first Director of the Indigenous Screen Office in Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessewente.

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Beyond the Canon—Maliglutit + The Searchers

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