Still shaken by a childhood reading of anthropologist Colin Turnbull's '60s portrait of Uganda's Ik tribe—whom he dubbed "the worst people in the world" for shunning love, abandoning children, and defecating on one another's doorsteps—director Cevin D. Soling traveled to Northern Uganda to find out if the Iks were, in fact, sadistic monsters of legend. As recounted in his documentary Ikland, what he found was something far different: a people whose friendly nature and familial protectiveness (against starvation and a violent opposing clan) was recognizably human—a revelation that starkly exposes Turnbull's racism. Soling and co-director David Hilbert divide their screen into multiple visual quadrants, an aesthetic strategy that soon becomes a wearisome affectation that's barely mitigated by their refusal to romanticize the landscape or soft-pedal the hazardous hardships of Ik life. Whereas the filmmakers' compassion runs deep, their focus ultimately wavers, culminating with, of all things, the decision to have the Ik stage A Christmas Carol—presumably because Scrooge abandoned his humanity in a manner that Turnbull claimed the Ik did—which proves to be a hopelessly strained metaphorical stunt.
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