The feature film "On the Ice", directed by Inuit filmmaker Andrew Okpeaha MacLean has been making succesfully the rounds at festivals throughout the world in the first half of 2011. Last Sunday the movie received a prestigious critics' award at the Seattle International Film Festival.
For presenting a universal, near-Biblical tragedy set in a little known culture recreated with compelling detail. A story told with outstanding naturalistic performances with a confident, compelling narrative.
On the Ice was filmed 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Barrow, Alaska. This is my hometown. The temperature in winter is often over 40 degrees below zero.
From November through January the sun never rises; from May to August the sun never sets. It is a place of limitless expanses of land, sky, and ice that paradoxically can evoke a crushingly claustrophobic sense of isolation.
Alaska is one of the last mythic places in the world. Nearly everyone has heard of it, but very few have any real understanding of what life in the Arctic is really like. The majority of the population are Iñupiat, as am I. Centuries old traditions are still a bedrock of life. Hunting seals, walrus, and whales provides much of the food the town lives on. This is a unique setting for a film.
The main characters, Qalli and Aivaaq, are from Barrow. They have grown up there, much as I did. As such their lives have been far from what is considered normal in other parts of the country. And yet they are also much like 17 year‐olds anywhere in North America.
Their day‐to‐day dramas of status and identity can be found in any small town. On the Ice is a character‐driven thriller about getting away with murder and a morality tale about the limits of friendship and forgiveness.
It is a story that can happen anywhere, but only happens as it does here, in the Arctic.
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