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Arctic Defenders: Nunavut doc is sensitive but only intermittently compelling

A scene from the documentary Arctic Defenders.


2 out of 4 stars

Written by
John Walker
Directed by
John Walker
English, Inuktitut

The personal and the political get intertwined in Arctic Defenders, a documentary that finds veteran Canadian filmmaker John Walker descending on the remote, icy expanse of Resolute Bay in Nunavut – a location he'd first visited as a young man in the 1960s. Back then, Walker was excited to measure the distance between himself and an exotic, foreign culture he'd only heard about second-hand.

Nearly 50 years later, his explicit goal is to inform viewers about the treacherous path to sovereignty and autonomy walked by the region's indigenous inhabitants. This he does by letting Inuit leaders tell their stories – many of which are unflattering to several successive Canadian federal administrations – in their own words.

The sheer accumulation of details in the anecdotes is revelatory, yet Arctic Defenders is only intermittently compelling.

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Even as Walker takes a few well-aimed shots at the simplistic tactics of vintage NFB documentaries about "Eskimo" life, his film doesn't exactly break old moulds – it's sensitive, competently assembled and plodding.

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About the Author

Adam Nayman is a contributing editor for Cinema Scope and writes on film for Montage, Sight and Sound, Reverse Shot and Cineaste. He is a lecturer at Ryerson and the University of Toronto and his first book, a critical study of Paul Verhoeven's SHOWGIRLS, will be published in 2014 by ECW Press. More


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