Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) directed by Zach Kunuk

One last suggestion – another film that is free online – Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) by Zach Kunuk (2001).

This is a feature film by Inuit director Zach Kunuk made in the Northwest Territories of Canada in the village of Igloolik. I’ve had a long association with media makers from this village, beginning when I was the video curator at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center here in Buffalo in the early 1990s.

Atanarjuat was the first feature-length fiction film written, produced, and directed by Canadian Inuit and acted entirely in Inuktitut, the native language spoken by the Inuit. The film screened world-wide.

The film is based on a centuries-old Inuit story. The main elements of the original story are that two brothers are betrayed by their wives, who help set up a sneak attack. Rivals plunge their spears through the walls of the brothers’ tent, but the fast runner (Atanarjuat) makes an escape across the ice, naked and barefoot. After being rescued and healing, the fast runner sets up his own ambush and succeeds in killing his rivals. The film takes liberties with the original Inuit myth – so I’m not giving anything away here!

You can find a detailed summary of the film here and via this site.


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Black Girl (1966) by Ousmane Sembene

Well…how about this?! Black Girl is on YouTube as well! Wow – films that were once out of reach for casual, non-academic or festival viewing are becoming more and more available. I highly recommend this film – voice over narration, marginalized character, a FEMALE protagonist, interesting use of style, flashback story sequences, important consideration of race, gender and class, etc.

The Netflix version has English captions – the YouTube translation is in BETA…

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Chat Topic: Third Cinema

This is a bit of an aside, but I wonder how many of you would be interested in seeing more Third Cinema – a 1960s term for the sort of director or auteur-driven cinema from South America and Africa – in a class like this. For example, if we had just one more week I would have definitely added Sembene’s film Black Girl (1966) to our class schedule (the film is new to Netflix, if you are interested in checking it out – the first African film to go to the Cannes Film Festival). Really important film! I think that works like City of God, Platform, Black Girl and numerous other films, strengthen notions of the role of realism, narrative structure and cinematic techniques to tell stories that consider a range of real-life issues of importance.


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Children in City of God

Throughout the movie City of God children play a huge role. But what makes their effect even more interesting is the way it changes throughout the movie. At the start of the movie, the children are excluded from the activities because of their graphic nature, yet by the end they become the very thing they were shielded from. The use of children in this movie directly depicts the life the people live within the city. Children are raised with love and care like most families, but over time the poor living conditions and overall impoverished area corrupts them and turns them into who the parents were protecting them from. The ending scene where Runts kills Lil Z best depicts this. The innocent becomes the corrupted through his killing.


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Chat Topic: The Role of Children in City of God


From the young Rocket, Lil Dice and Benny to young gang of Runts, child protagonists serve pivotal roles within City of God. During our discussion of The Bicycle Thief, you offered various interpretations of the role that Bruno’s character served within that film – a mini-version of his father, the conscience of the film, a protector of Antonio, etc. What role(s) do you see children serving within City of God? How do these characters function within the narrative?  What do you make of  Meirelles’ notion that the film serves to challenges the idea or myth of children as innocent?


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Chat Topic: City of God – Impressions

There is so much happening in City of God narratively, cinematically, and symbolically that, perhaps, it is best to start our discussion of the film simply with your impressions. What strikes you most about the film? What was your experience watching City of God as a first time viewer? How did the various and varied narrative structure and cinematic techniques affect, enhance or confuse your understanding of the storyline? Is there a “cosmetics of hunger” at work in this film as many critics claim?


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Chat Topic: The conclusion of Platform


What are we to make of the final scene of Platform? One review noted that the scene depicts familial bliss – the happy mother, the napping father; another has commented that the ending reveals resignation and an acceptance of one’s station in life; still others point to the city framed in the distance, Ming-liang and Ruijuan framed within domestic space. The director, Jia Zhangke, has noted that the whistling teapot at the end is meant to evoke a train whistle.

What do you think? How to you interpret the ending of the film?


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