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The Grizzlies (2018)

1:20 | Clip
In a small Arctic town struggling with the highest suicide rate in North America, a group of Inuit students' lives are transformed when they are introduced to the sport of lacrosse.


Miranda de Pencier
4 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Jack Anawak Jack Anawak ... Plane Passenger
Fred Bailey Fred Bailey ... Roger
Seth Burke Seth Burke ... Johnny
Mary Buscemi Mary Buscemi ... Lenore Aviak
Tantoo Cardinal ... Janace
Mayala Chapman Mayala Chapman ... Female Townsperson #2
Christopher Church Christopher Church ... Special BG / Lacrosse
Colton Clause ... (voice)
Spencer Dewar Spencer Dewar ... RCMP Officer #2
Brad Fraser Brad Fraser ... Tanner
Ippiksaut Friesen Ippiksaut Friesen ... Town Council Member
Colton Hart Colton Hart ... Special BG / Lacrosse
Looee Ishulutaq Looee Ishulutaq ... Female Townsperson
Innosar Issakiark Innosar Issakiark ... Special BG / Lacrosse
Mary Itorcheak Mary Itorcheak ... Schoolgirl (with baby)


THE GRIZZLIES is an inspiring true story based on a group of Inuit students in the small Arctic town of Kugluktuk. Suffering from widespread drug use, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and one of the highest teen suicide rates in the world, this northern community is periled by the legacy of colonialism. The students are naturally skeptical when Russ Sheppard, yet another ignorant and unprepared white rookie teacher, arrives from the South on a one-year teaching contract. With much to learn, but deeply shaken by the death of one of his students, Russ introduces his class to the sport of lacrosse in an effort to help lift the dangerous fog of trauma existing in his students. While initially resistant, the students gradually come together to embrace the sport, form Team Grizzlies, and find inspiration to make shifts in their own lives. Together with Russ, the team gains the support of a deeply divided town and eventually negotiates its way to the National Lacrosse Championships in ...

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama






Inuktitut | English

Release Date:

5 January 2019 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



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Did You Know?


The film's premiere came as a special presentation at Toronto's TIFF in September 2018. See more »

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User Reviews

Nice work -- a well worn plot is given new life by this new setting.
12 May 2019 | by gcsmanSee all my reviews

The storyline of this fine film is something we've seen before in all kinds of ways: a young, idealistic, somewhat naive new fellow arrives in a small town to teach in the local high school. The students are aimless, cynical, disillusioned. Idea! get them to bond, focus, genuinely care about something through sports and team-building. They go on to success (of a kind) and the town is transformed.

But in this case, the sport is lacrosse, the town is an isolated settlement in Nunavut, and the kids are Inuit. The scenery, which makes an understated backdrop for much of the movie, speaks for itself -- treeless, snow-blanketed throughout most of the year, immense horizons. Hunting and fishing are their way of life, and the coexistence between the Inuit and the whites is still very uneasy. Alcoholism and suicide are common, a legacy of decades of contact with the whites and even worse, the residential-school era. The opening shots are a truly unsettling montage of photos from that period that the natives were subjected to -- we see historic black-and-white shots of a few kids, then dozens, then hundreds, all in regimented rows and all wearing school "uniforms" that looked more like prison gear.

But fortunately "Grizzlies" wastes no time getting right into the story, and introducing the class of kids that teacher Russ (a captivating Ben Schnetzer) meets. They start mutually adjusting to one another and it's not long at all before Russ -- himself a lacrosse player from college -- hits on the idea. It's a nice countercultural twist that lacrosse, which was played by the natives centuries before the whites arrived, is a sport that none of the Inuit kids have ever heard of, and at first they think it's yet another crazy white scam. Key players are Adam (Ricky Marty-Pahtaykan), Zach (Paul Nutarariaq), and Kyle (Booboo Stewart), the most prominent of the young men. But an even bigger key is Miranda (Emerald MacDonald), a stout, shy young woman with a magic smile and latent leadership competency just waiting for an opportunity like this new school team. Her friend Spring (a beautiful Anna Lambe) was a little underused, I thought; she has to represent both the touchstone artistic genius of the Inuit, and some of the results of domestic violence afflicting the town, but her part could easily have been more substantial. But everyone in the cast is just great. The kids are natural and unforced, and Russ is played as a quite uncomplicated guy who wants more and more deeply as the story goes on to do the best he can. The best-known cast member is Tantoo Cardinal, as the school principal who's had just a bit TOO much experience trying to keep things together: every time I see her, I'm totally impressed at her easy command of the screen.

None of this sufficiently gets across the style of this movie. It's a conventional fell-good story, led up to by many bumps in the road, but it has lots of humor, happiness, and fun to go with it. You won't regret seeing this even if you've sat through lots of previous versions of this storyline. "Grizzlies" stands among the best of them.

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