19th Century Inuits in Before Tomorrow

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Before Tomorrow
Directed by Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu
Igloolik Isuma Productions
December 2 through 15, Film Forum

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Moving from a wondrously virgin Arctic springtime to an equally untouched, though far less inviting, winter snowscape, and shifting from a vibrant, self-contained community to an isolated pairing of grandmother and grandson, Before Tomorrow posits its central inter-generational duo as a sort of last couple on earth, or at least their dying Inuit community. With its character-defining landscapes and hints at a changing way of life, Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu's film is something of a racially-inverted, north-of-the-border Western—it takes place in 1840, when white "strangers" were just beginning to appear—though one that de-emphasizes action and keeps the threat of outsiders almost entirely off-screen. The story of an ill-fated hunting trip, the film portrays a community defined by oral tradition and day-to-day survival. Tall tales and the minutiae of seal-spearing provide much of the content, at least until that gives way to the banality of slow death in the final act. But if the movie's documentary function tends to trump its narrative one, the directors nevertheless manage to locate great reserves of sadness in the material, tapping a particularly rich vein in the wrinkled look of resignation on actress/co-director Ivalu's face.

 
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