In John Ford’s 1956 classic western The searchers, John Wayne plays a Civil war veteran trying to find his niece who was abducted by Comanche Indians. In Zacharias Kunuk and Natar Ungalaaq’s Maliglutit, the action has shifted from 1868 to 1913 in the Northern Canadian territory now known as Nunavut. It was filmed near the small community of Igloolik, with the cast of non-professional actors having to work in -48 °C, many of them suffering from frostbite as a result. The story starts in Kuanana’s igloo. Kuanana (Benjamin Kunuk) has invited Aulla (Jonah Qunaq) and his small band of thugs to his home. But Aulla is drunk and shamelessly flirts with Kuanana’s wife, Ailla (Jocelyne Immaroitok) and his daughter, Tagaq (Karen Ivalu). So he is asked to leave. The next day, while Kuanana and his oldest son are away from home, Aulla comes back to abduct the two women to use them for their sexual pleasures. Upon coming back, Kuanana finds that the rest of the family have been killed. He and his son go on a search to find the killers, avenge the dead and bring back the abducted women. Maliglutit is the latest of a series of films in Inuktitut produced by First Nation artists in Nunavut. The first film directed in 2001 by Zacharias Kunuk was Atanarjuat: The fast runner . Despite a slow beginning and an unsurprising outcome, Maliglutit is very exciting to watch. Zacharias Kunuk was a fan of John Wayne and this film is an homage of sorts to westerns. It is spectacularly shot by cinematographer Jonathan Frantz. An inspired score by Tanya Tagaq and Chris Crilly uses throat singing, electric guitars and an harmonica. The theme is definitely John Ford, but the music is more Ennio Morricone than Max Steiner.
Inspired by John Ford’s film The searchers
In Inuktitut with English subtitles.