The Journals of Knud Rasmussen

6.4| 1h52m| en| More Info
Released: 11 March 2006 Released
Producted By: Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc.
Budget: 0
Revenue: 0
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Based on the journal of Knud Rasmussen's "Great Sled Journey" of 1922 across arctic Canada. The film is shot from the perspective of the Inuit, showing their traditional beliefs and lifestyle. It tells the story of the last great Inuit shaman and his beautiful and headstrong daughter; the shaman must decide whether to accept the Christian religion that is converting the Inuit across Greenland.

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tsasa198 For all of you "Atanarjuat" fans out there I have a challenge for you. It's called "The Journals of Knud Rasmussen," and it excels in all the ways "Atanarjuat" was only mediocre. Remember how you thought "Atanarjuat" was a little too flashy, a little too commercial, a little too Hollywood? Then I challenge you to watch this film and tell me it's a good one . . . because it isn't. For two hours it beat me into submission to the point that I was begging for the end credits. The scene in the theater was more interesting than what was happening on the screen. I watched as about 30 people walked out and the old ladies on both sides on me dozed off.What was wrong you ask? Well not everything, but almost. There is a plot buried deep in the Canadian snow here and it involves the first Christians who encountered the Inuit's. But instead of exploring that basically unexplored piece of history the filmmakers are content to sit in igloos and frolic in the snow. At one point we watch as a man sits and tells his entire life story to the camera. It goes on for about 15 minutes straight and worse yet he neglects to say one interesting thing. This tactic would be inexcusable in a regular documentary, but in this one, which pretends to be fictional, it really is a screw up. It would have been much better served to just say that it is a documentary on modern Inuit life. By promising a story and then not delivering you only work to alienate your audience. There are a few things to like here. The images of the Inuit's trying to be religious zealots were creepy and stark. I also liked the point that this film makes that often times Christians have been able to convert people because of their empty stomachs as opposed to great rhetorical skills. It is also a well know fact, historically speaking, that the white man usually leaves a place a worse place than he found it. The victims of this imperialism rarely care because the white man usually arrives carrying food. It is interesting that this film takes place in such a far off location that both sides come off looking like suckers.More than anything, when the credits rolled I was celebrating. Anytime a film provides less entertainment value than my bedroom window it is in big trouble. Past violators such as "What Time is it There" and "Gerry" were ridiculously slow, but this one takes the cake. I know that "Eight Below" was pure unadulterated Hollywood, but it was such a better film. "The Journals of Knud Rasmussen" wore me down, and not in a good way. I consider myself to be a fairly savvy film appreciator, but if this film had real redeeming values then I missed them. These directors have given the film community a gift by shining a light on the Inuit community, but now they need to make an entertaining film. For without a reason to watch people will just doze off or walk away. *1/4
Chris Knipp Kunuk's 2001 Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, which won the Camera d'Or award at Cannes and was the first feature film ever made in the Inuit language, was a dramatization of a thousand-year-old tale of the nomadic seal-hunting clans of Alaska that tells of a vendetta and a purging of evil; it had the flavor of an ancient Scandinavian epic and was hauntingly harsh, remote, and violent but had fleeting elements of humor and an unmistakable sensuality. This new film is drawn from the same region and stars the same pool of actors from the local population but concerns events in the early 1920's described in Rasmussen's travel documents. He was a Dane with Inuit blood who spoke the language. He was a kind of anthropologist-adventurer. The journal of his fifth Thule Expedition across the Canadian Arctic recounts the information he gathered during a brief but uniquely significant encounter.Rasmussen came with a trader, Peter Freuchen, and an anthropologist, Therkel Mathiassen. At this moment in 1922-23 he found a people in transition. The Inuit were being converted to Christianity, but were still at a stage when among some of their members the two ways still existed. His information is crucial, and of lively interest to modern-day Inuits, because once the Inuit were persuaded to cast out their spirits and give up shamanism their Christian leaders immediately forbade them even to speak of the old ways, declaring them to be the work of Satan. Rasmussen found men who still spoke of the old ways and sang the old songs. Kunuk and his close collaborator and cameraman Norman Cohn have brought this lore back to life. Like an ancient legend, this film (strictly speaking video, shot in HD 24P) like its predecessor preserves the record of a culture.Cohn and Kunuk have worked together on a number of short videos for years. They and elder Pauloosie Quilitalik and the late Paul Apak developed a style of "relived" cultural drama, "combining the authenticity of modern video with the ancient art of Inuit storytelling." Both features are best understood as interfaces of events and their retelling.As the film begins, the great shaman, Avva (Pakak Innuksuk)and his family are living on the land some distance from Iglulik, his home community, which has taken up the teachings of Christian missionaries. Rasumssen comes with Freuchen and Mathiassen. They hear and record the life stories of Avva and his wife Orulu. Their son Natar impulsively agrees to guide Freuchen and Mathiassen north to Iglulik. In the last part of the film Avva and his clan make a terribly difficult journey toward home, facing strong headwinds and conditions that almost starve them. Ultimately Avva will abandon his ancient spirits, and they will wander off, wailing, as the evil spirits wandered off at the end of Atanarjuat. But along the way, individuals will be important, notably Avva's strong-minded daughter Apak (Leah Angutimarik), who still has sex with her dead husband and will have nothing to do with her new one.The essence of Kunuk-Cohn's collaboration is that their projects come out of and go back to their indigenous sources. It makes little sense to talk about how "authentic" the film is. The actors are playing their grandparents. The target audience is the small community of Iglulik from which these films and the cast have come. There is no competition. Kunuk was an artist with a little education who sold sculptures in Montreal in the early Eighties to buy a camera. He was going to take still pictures. Instead he went into video. There was no television or video where he came from. He brought it back. His aim was to film his father. He still seeks to preserve the culture of his people. Norman Cohn was a widely exhibited video artist who has worked with Kunuk since the Nineties and now is closely associated with Iglulik and divides his time between there and Montreal. This film is a Danish co-feature with Danish actors playing the explorer-visitors' roles.In the early scene where Avva introduces his family members to the Danes I felt like a visitor, lost in a strange language. That is how both Kunuk's features feel. It takes at least half an hour to acclimate oneself and begin to fall into the rhythm of different ways. It's also true that this film is less exciting than the previous one in narrative terms. It lacks quite the level of physical action. It is primarily a story about storytelling, about receiving information. But it also has moments of plangent grief and shock as Christians appear and men give up their spirits, give up the culture of 4,000 years, as Cohn described it in an interview, to follow "Ten Commandments," as if to imply those Ten could hardly replace a whole culture rich in survival strategies. Young people, he and Kunuk say, are again at a transitional stage. They have given up Christian practice and are welcoming back the old ideas and ways.Anyway, whether you find the storytelling technique of these films compelling or simply off-putting, they are unique cinematic documents of the endangered culture of a people who have lived successfully for millennia in the harshest conditions on earth. It would be hard to justify not including this film as one of the New York Film Festival's selective list for 2006.
Jamester The arctic provides a bleak landscape. It's cold, there's snow, maybe the odd igloo or so and sky.So how does a movie-maker transform this to paint a picture of how Christianity was introduced to the Inuit 95-odd years ago? Very skillfully, I must say.And when the story makes you understand how Inuit life and thinking was before with shamans, and family traditions of eating, child rearing, and let's say superstitions, though perhaps that's not the exact word, and the transition that took place in one household and the extended community when Danish explorers from Greenland chanced upon this community, you see a piece of history unfold in front of you in a gripping, intellectually powerful way.The impact on the family, the emotional rip from the heart, and the ensuing loss really makes for a powerful and honest film.Well, done with super acting throughout!
benl-4 As I expected, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen was a "slow" film but I found it to be very powerful. I saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival at a Press and Industry screening.The Journals of Knud Rasmussen is a true story of first contact with Europeans and the family and historical tensions that arise. It gave a powerful sense of the old Inuit life of tradition and superstition. The first scene was an evocative camera's-eye view of an Inuit family preparing themselves to be photographed which faded into a black and white still. As the end credits rolled photographs of the historical characters were shown.Throughout the film I had a real sense of being in the place and in the time. The plot mixed the real and supernatural worlds intermixed frequently, which required a fair amount of concentration on the viewer's part.