Review: Maliglutit (Searchers)

An Inuk hunter seeks out the men who kidnapped his wife and daughter in Maliglutit (Searchers). After returning from a caribou hunt, Kuanana (Benjamin Kunuk) and his son Siku (Joseph Uttak) arrives home to find Kuanana’s wife Ailla (Jocelyne Immaroitok) and daughter Tagaq (Karen Ivalu) have been kidnapped and his youngest son Anguti murdered. Kuanana and Siku ask for the assistance of the loon spirit Kallulik to locate the men responsible and rescue the women.

Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) and co-director Natar Ungalaaq presents this Inuit story that is loosely inspired by John Ford’s 1956 Western The SearchersMaliglutit tells the story of Kuanana and his oldest son Siku, who go on a journey across the show to locate Kupak (Joey Sarpinak) and his group of hunters, who have kidnapped Kuanana’s wife and daughter.

It has been more than 15 years since Zacharias Kunuk became part of Canadian film history with 2001’s Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, which was the first feature film to be made in the Inuktitut language. For his latest feature film, Kunuk takes inspiration from the John Ford films he watched in his youth. The story of Maliglutit takes the stereotypical “Cowboys vs Indians” featured in The Searchers and reappropriates the story as an Inuit fable.

While Maliglutit is ultimately its own film, the western influences of the story are apparent, with dog sledding across arctic landscapes replacing the typical images of horse-riding. In fact, stylistically Maliglutit is a quite fascinating film, as it presents a mix of western film tropes and Inuit culture. The very idea of taking a colonial story and retelling it with an indigenous culture is itself quite interesting and Maliglutit is a film that you can analyze to death.

However, I have to say that Maliglutit is not a perfect film. It is quite obvious that the film is using non-professional actors and sometimes the dialogue does not come off right, though this could also be a result of something being lost in translation in the film’s subtitles. Maliglutit is actually at its best when dialogue is at a minimum and film focuses on wide shots of the arctic landscape, with the cinematography of the film often being quite beautiful.

Ultimately, I would say that Atanarjuat remains the better of Zacharias Kunuk’s films, though Maliglutit is still and interesting example of taking a John Wayne western and turning it into an Inuit fable.

7 / 10 stars

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).