I Will Survive! (The Long, Harsh Winter)

by Intern Sheila J

There’s definitely a dearth of women filmmakers. So when you know a film comes out created by women, you know it’s special. 

Before Tomorrow is one of these films. It’s written & Directed by Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu. But not only is it made by Inuit women’s video collective Arnait Video Productions, it tells the tale of a relationship not often portrayed in film: the strong bond between a grandson and his grandmother.

As the third and last film in the First Runner trilogy, Before Tomorrow is set in 1840 in the harsh, Arctic tundra. But it’s summer, and every year this time the Inuit families get ready to catch and dry fish on a remote island for winter’s food reserve. Ninguiq (Madeline Piujuq Ivalu), an elderly, strong woman, insists on embarking on the hunt, but her family tells her that it’s time to let younger, more able women to go instead. She ignores their advice and gets ready for the big hunt, with grandson Maniq (Paul-Dylan Ivalu, her grandson in real-life) in tow.

The hunt is done and summer is over. But as the first snow falls and their family hasn’t arrived to pick them up yet, they feel that something is wrong. They head back to their camp themselves, only to find tragedy. Their loved ones have all died, and Ninguiq and Maniq find themselves suddenly stranded, alone in the harsh, Arctic winter fighting for survival. Madeline Ivalu is a triple threat, having co-written, co-directed, and starred in the Inuit period drama.  Her and her grandson Paul-Dylan portray the combination of fear, pain, anger and uncertainty and an impressively realistic way. In mentioning that, the whole film has a documentary-feel, so much that I often forgot that it was a work of fiction set in 1840. The movie stays true to the Inuit culture, with scenes of the elder Inuit keeping with oral tradition, the families eating raw seal together as a form of bonding, and the lush seal and walrus coats they wore, which admittedly, looked so warm and cozy, especially on this rainy, windy NYC day.

The cinematography is spectacular. The whiteness of the landscape; the darkness of the caves where they sleep, and the blueness of the sky and waters are vivid. It is unspoiled nature that calms any heart and soul, and reflects the breathing and living earth.  
But most significantly, it’s refreshing to see an older woman portrayed as motherly and nurturing yet strong and powerful.

Arnait Video Productions, started in 1991, is made up of ambitious, creative, and cooperative women in Igloolik. They aim to preserve Inuit culture, and to give Inuit women a means of expressing their voices through art and cinema.

So show them some love and attend the U.S. Premiere this Wednesday, Dec. 2 @ Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St. in New York City. And an added bonus: co-creator Marie-Hélène Cousineau will be in person at the 7:45pm show!

Go to Film Forum’s Web site for more information.

Photo courtesy of Igloolik Isuma Productions

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