Village at the End of the World
Film Title: Village at the End of the World
Director: Sarah Gavron, David Katznelson
Running Time: 82 min
Lars is one of three youngsters in far-flung Niaqornat in northwest Greenland. Call it globalisation, but there’s something comforting and familiar about his everyteen likes and habits. He wears a Liverpool FC replica jersey, he makes a lot of friends on Facebook, he listens to McFly and a local hip-hop act.
The latter’s newest track is about suicide, which is especially pertinent at a time when small, traditional Greenlandic communities are disintegrating and many Inuit feel they have nowhere left to go.
As Village at the End of the World opens, the Royal Greenland fisheries company has closed down the local halibut factory – “the heart of the village” as one jobless resident puts it – and Niaqornat looks doomed. One younger family, the son and granddaughters of the local teacher, are helicoptered away to a bigger town. It’s a sizable blow to a village where the population numbers 59 and where the humans are outnumbered by huskies. Now the teacher’s pupils number eight.
Local hunters (and they’re all hunters except Lars) bring home the occasional whale or polar bear. As the local chief is keen to point out, they’ve lived this way, sustainably, for generations. “The way of the Inuit is to struggle with nature and to live sustainably from its fruits.” One old lady keeps a photo of Brigitte Bardot, noting that the French activist has damaged fur sales: “We respect the animals but she thinks she protects them.”
Still, the villagers remain capable of finding and hunting enough fish to feed themselves and the dogs, supplemented by the goods on the supply ships that arrive between May and December. Lars wishes they would arrive with Elvis Presley; an older resident, who favours the local diet of blubber and fish, wishes they wouldn’t bring vegetables: “They taste like grass!” he says.
But without the halibut factory, this ancient Inuit settlement no longer has the capacity to make money. Happily, the chief has the idea – and the drive – to take over the disused facility and convert it into a local cooperative. Can they make it work?
The phrase “it takes a village” springs to mind while watching this is a lovely portrait of a community under threat. The viewer is, of course, gladdened to see Lars with his Eminem beanie and tattoos and to know that the settlement was electrified in 1985.
Yet, as a visiting Danish tourist remarks, it would be dreadful to think that these people with their beautiful customs and language (sample season: Kaperlak – the time of darkness) would disappear forever into larger cityscapes.