Inuk Movie

(From Torsdag, Maj 31, 2012)

This afternoon after work, Sharon and I went to see a movie called INUK.  It has won a slew of film awards and was featured at Cannes, Woodstock Film Festival, and the like.  My host family tells me it has also been nominated for an Oscar in July!

Our first movie experience in Greenland was very fun!  The cinema is located on Kuussuaq (the road) in Katuaq, the Culture Houe/Kulturikkut Pikialaartitsisoq, and is very nice.  It also doubles as the playhouse for live performances, and there is a full-service cafe inside Katuaq, as well.  When we bought our tickets, we actually chose the exact seats we would sit in using a touch screen computer!  Then we went through the concessions line which is a very small room with wall to wall bulk candy bins, beverage fridges, and popcorn machines with a table in the center that houses an ice cream freezer!  The movie ticket prices here are pretty high, but the concessions are very cheap, so it basically evens out to be the same price as the US.

The movie was a beautiful, educational/eye-opening, and engaging film about a boy (Inuk) from the settlement of Uummannaq (North Greenland) who had moved south to Nuuk, but then returned again to his home to do some self-reflecting of sorts. It was fairly significant that the boy’s home was Uummannaq because this word means “heart-shaped” or “related to the heart”.  Some Greenlanders say the settlement is named such because the specific mountain that rises above it (actually, Uummannaq and the mountain are an island) is shaped like a heart.  Others say any mountain close to one’s home can be called Uummannaq because when one is coming home from the sea or the ice and sees his mountain ahead of him, he gets a warm feeling in his heart because he knows he has survived his trip.  One of the themes of the movie was how to respond to impending change while maintaining one’s roots. I highly recommend seeing this movie when it is released!

This movie was definitely a conversation piece, mostly because it depicted the city in which we live, so people inherently had opinions about it.  The consensus seemed to be that Greenlanders really liked the movie, but that Danes were less favoring of it, although there are of course exceptions to everything!  One Greenlander said she did not like the movie because it was translated incorrectly from Greenlandic to English and also because it depicted Greenlanders as victims and Nuuk as a bad city and she did not like that at all.

It was actually quite timely to see this movie today because my boss, Anders, and I had just had a great conversation about small languages in Greenland and how their survival has basically depended on the lack of ground infrastructure in the country.  The official language is West Greenlandic (called Kalaallisut) and has the most speakers, but two other languages also exist – East Greenlandic (called Tunumiisut) and Inuktun (called Avanersuarmiutut) spoken in the North – that have only a few thousand speakers! These languages surely would have died out long ago if roads existed between the settlements because North and East Greenlanders would have had to conduct business and education in West Greenlandic, causing their languages to become increasingly obsolete.

I asked Anders if Greenlanders want roads that connect the settlements.  He said that yes, some do, but in the end, it always comes down to price.  The expense of building roads is so great that it would take hundreds of years to see a return on the investment – clearly this is not an advantageous scenario.  Even though Greenlanders have to sail or fly any time they want to leave a settlement, this remains to be the more economic choice because it is possible to fill these transportation machines to capacity.  With such low population density, use of the inter-settlement roads could never reach the capacity necessary to make them financially valid.

Greenland is such a fascinating and unique case, and everything about it is intertwined with the climate.  I wish that I could know the future to see if these climate change predictions actually pan out and what effects they have on Greenland.  There is a bookstore here called Atuagkat (Anders was teaching me some basic word order, and I think the root is Atuar- meaning “to read”) that is supposed to carry a lot of non-fiction about Greenland.  I am told that it is moving so right now there are big discounts on its inventory.  I want to check it out to see if there are any good books on Greenlandic language, culture, or public opinion.


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