Barrow film honored at Sundance festival
Inupiaq-language drama can be viewed online today
By Sarah Henning
"He has to struggle with doing the right thing, or caving in to the friend who committed the crime," said Brad Weyiouanna of Barrow, who played Apuna.
Because the town is small and isolated, MacLean said, it was an ideal microcosm for exploring how one person's actions can affect an entire community.
"It's actually a fairly universal story, but set through Andrew's lens," said film producer Cara Marcous of New York City. "I think he's telling what is really a moral decision story, in real time. I think it's specific in its portrayal of this culture, but it also connects with people regardless of where they're from."
To MacLean's knowledge, "Sikumi" is the only feature film entirely shot in the Inupiaq language. (A 2002 full-length feature from Canada, "Atanarjuat" or "The Fast Runner," used dialogue in Inuktitut, a related Inuit dialect.)
MacLean is of Inupiaq heritage, making him among the relatively few Native Alaskan filmmakers to receive wide attention for his work. “Sikumi (On the Ice”) premiered at Sundance, but hopefully it will not getting detoured into the Native American film festival ghetto–it is a work of great intelligence and artistry that demands to be seen by as many people as possible.
Watch the whole 15-minute film here:
It's good to see a traditional story in a modern setting. The implication is that the Inupiaq language and culture endure. Physical details may change, but beliefs and values are eternal.
Basically I'd say Sikumi is a small gem of a movie. I wouldn't call it a stunner or a masterpiece, but it's better than most short films of its type. Watch it when you have 15 minutes to spare.
For more on the subject, see Sikumi the Feature Film and The Best Indian Movies.