Ethnography, Melodrama, Multiculturalism: Atanarjuat – The Fast Runner

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This film begins with the story of Atanarjuat, or the Fast Runner who is in love with Atuat who happens to be promised in marriage to the son of the leader of the Inuit group, Oki. To win Atuat, Atanarjuat must fight for her hand in marriage against Oki. After fighting Oki in a fist fight, Atanarjuat wins and is given the right to marry Atuat.

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While he is married to Atuat, Atanarjuat is also interested in Puja who is the sister of Oki and sleeps with her when he is hunting with her group. He then has both Puja and Atuat as his wives. While Oki is searching for Atanarjuat after Puja accuses Atanarjuat of trying to kill her, Atanarjuat is hidden under a pile of seaweed by a family that rescued him. As Oki enters and begins to ask the family if they have seen Atanarjuat, Oki pees on the pile of seaweed that Atanarjuat is laying under.

Atanarjuat has a dream of the spirit, rabbit’s foot. After this, Oki hunts and eats a rabbit and falls under a magic spell when he eats the rabbit. Once Atanarjuat returns to the group, where everyone thought he was dead, he plots to avenge the death of his brother and kill Oki and his family. He strategically plans out and builds an igloo with a slippery floor and wears special shoes with antlers on them so that he can trap and kill Oki. While he is able to trap and pin down Oki and has the opportunity to kill him, he makes the decision to rid the group of the evil spirit instead and says that the killing must end. He is then appointed as the new leader of the group after being given a necklace. He banishes Oki and his entire family from the community to cleanse the community from the evil spirit. While I found most of the aspects of the movie to be very interesting and unique compared to other films that I have seen, I especially enjoyed the spiritual addition to the plot. It is not very common for modern films to include plots with spiritual aspects unless it is a horror film and I found that the most significant reason that set this film apart from other films that I have seen. I also found the marriage dynamic of this film to also be interesting as Atanarjuat had multiple wives and was upset when he found his wife cheating on him with his brother. While this type of double standard is common in many cultures, I found it interesting that this particular group held these values and had similar family and marriage dynamics as other indigenous groups.

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