“There is a majesty in the Great White North, but it doesn’t seem that majestic when you’re standing by an opening in the ice waiting for a seal to emerge while your grandmother, the only other living person in sight, stomps her feet, trying to scare some lunch up through the breathing hole. The North is more than an idea and more than a place: It’s an obstacle course that takes a village to conquer. And the village goes missing in Before Tomorrow, an Inuit drama set in the dangerous isolation of the High Arctic,” starts Canada’s National Post review of “Before Tomorrow” by Jay Stone. The film, which won Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF ’08 and was at Sundance ’09, will premiere at Film Forum in NYC tomorrow. Stone ends his review, “In the film’s quiet pace, we are insinuated into a world of patient work, dreams, and most of all stories: When a boy kills his first seal, the tale of the hunt is as important as the meat it provides, and while ‘Before Tomorrow’ becomes a fairly straightforward saga of Arctic perils, it also takes on a mythic quality, a sense of symbolism and spirits that seem to rise from the tundra. ‘That’s the end of that story,’ the grandmother says when her tales of ravens and owls are over. ‘Before Tomorrow’ is about the end of the end.”
“Before Tomorrow” is directed by Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, both members of the Arnait Film Collective for women filmmakers in Igloolik, a small island in North Canada. As the CBC‘s Jesse Wente notes, “The story is based on a book by famed Danish author Jørn Riel [about Greenland] and is set in a remote Inuit community in the mid-nineteenth century.” Wente goes on to say, “‘Before Tomorrow’ is a gripping story of survival, as well as an intimate account of first contact between Europeans and Inuit and how that event changed the world. The movie is beautifully filmed and acted with gorgeous and poetic northern vistas, contrasted with warm interiors, all shot by natural light, which in fact becomes part of the story, as the flame from the oil lamp plays a significant role.”
In a well-rounded middle-of-the-road assessment, the Toronto Star‘s Greg Quill says, “beneath the seal skins and beyond the tenuous, oily flame in centre frame, Before Tomorrow is endowed with a rich humanity and an almost heroic stoicism. Its palate – whites, greys, browns, dull blues and the brilliant, fiery hues of a perpetually disappearing sun – is unselfconsciously inspiring, as is the work of the movie’s untrained actors, who seem to be living their parts, with the camera as voyeur. These achievements aside, the film suffers from quirky pacing and too many long scenes whose silences are less than eloquent, which slow the narrative down to glacial speed, depriving it of the metaphysical jolt the story needs.”
In the Arizona Star, Harvey Karten concludes, “The film stands in as yet another dirge for the cultural and even physical mayhem caused by the intruders, but its pace, as glacial as the scenery, sets up its 93 minutes as time that will be appreciated principally by students (or more accurately, their social studies teachers), and by an audience that has a thing for seeing ancient cultures through their own eyes. Color me philistine.”
The Toronto Star has an interview with director Cousineau here.