Mala leads a contented life as the best hunter in his Canadian Arctic tribe, providing meat, fish and birds with his great skill. When another tribe member returns from trading furs with the white men for items such as a gun and an iron needle, Mala's wife, Aba, urges him to make the 500-mile trek across the frozen tundra to do the same. After the long night of winter, Mala does go with his family to the white man's "floating house" in Tjarnak. The friendly captain makes trade for Mala's excellent furs, but upsets Mala when he insists that Aba sleep with him that night. "He didn't even ask me!" Mala complains. Afterwards, the captain suggests that Mala go whale hunting and promises not to touch his wife, so Mala agrees. But news of a successful catch spurs a celebration on board ship, and the captain has Aba forcibly removed from her tent, plied with liquor, and then he rapes her. In the morning, the still-drunk Aba staggers from the ship, but collapses in the snow, where she is ... Written by
Arthur Hausner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Here I thought "Nanook of the north" was the last word in archaic semi-doc 'eskimo' movies. How wrong! As an avid sea-kayaker I stayed up till 330am to watch this hoping to get a glimpse of some hand-made 'skin-boats'. The movie did not let me down. Any student of kayak/umiak construction should have a look-see here. (Note to fellow SKers: they appear to be using Norton Sound kayaks with single blade paddles).
But the film went way beyond this admittedly narrow interest. Even though there were as others have noted some little back-shot-fakey-bits the movie has so much heart they are just a minor annoyance. It was (from this very amateur anthropologist's viewpoint) probably the perfect time to make this movie. Early thirties: the 'talkies' are so new that they (including Louie B. Mayer!) actually let the Inuit speak in their own tongue. And there is so much that was still, despite the infused melodrama, authentic. They are really whacking that polar bear, that whale and those caribou. A fifties version of this film would have been so cheesy with 'stars', Technicolor, etc. to gum it up. The seventies version? Don't even. A very good companion piece to this excellent movie is "White shadows in the south seas" (1928) Geograpically the mirror image to "Eskimo" it also deals with the relentless and profound disruption of Western culture/technology on an unsuspecting people.
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