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Cannes Film Festival Winner
To Screen at UW-Eau Claire

 MAILED:  April 4, 2003

EAU CLAIRE - "The Fast Runner" (Canada 2001), a compelling human drama of astounding visual beauty set in the Arctic wilderness at the dawn of the first millennium, will screen April 10-13 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Winner of the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the film will be presented at 6 and 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday in Schofield Auditorium.

"It's not often that movie audiences are privileged to witness the heroic birth of a new national cinema," wrote The New York Times, "and Zacharias Kunuk's adaptation of an Inuit folk epic - the first-ever Inuktikut-language feature film - is astonishing in its sweep, power and complexity."

"The Fast Runner" ("Atanarjuat") is based on an ancient Inuit legend that has been kept alive for countless generations by Igloolik elders who tell the story to young Inuit, to warn them of the dangers of setting personal desire above the needs of the group.

The legend begins as Evil, in the form of an unknown shaman, divides a small community of nomadic Inuit, upsetting its balance and spirit.

Twenty years pass. Two brothers emerge to challenge the evil order: Amaqjuaq, the Strong One, and Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner. Atanarjuat wins the hand of the lovely Atuat away from the boastful son of the camp leader, Oki, who vows to get even. Oki ambushes the brothers in their sleep, killing Amaqjuaq, as Atanarjuat miraculously escapes, running naked over the spring sea ice. But can he ever escape the cycle of vengeance left behind?

"'Atanarjuat' is a universal story with emotions people all over the world can understand," said director Zacharias Kunuk. "It is also totally Inuit: a story we all heard as children, told and acted by Inuit. We show how Inuit lived hundreds of years ago and what their problems were, starting with their marriage problems. What happens when a woman is promised to one man but breaks a taboo and marries another? We show how our ancestors dressed, how they handled their dog teams, how they argued and laughed and went through hard times - how they confronted evil and fought back. They had to get along, to work things out no matter what. This is the story we are passing on to others, just like it was passed on to us."

One star of "The Fast Runner" is the land itself, the sense of space, sky and unique arctic light in all seasons. Filmed entirely on location on the sea-ice, sprawling tundra and rocky flatlands, the austere, evocative beauty of the landscape is used to underscore the importance of cooperation to Inuit families in their nomadic lifestyle.

"Mysterious, bawdy, emotionally intense, and replete with virtuoso throat singing, this three-hour movie is engrossing from first image to last," wrote the Village Voice.

"I am not surprised that 'The Fast Runner' has been a box office hit," wrote film critic Roger Ebert. "It is unlike anything most audiences will ever have seen... passion, filtered through ritual and memory."

Subtitled in English, the 172-minute film is not rated.

Tickets are $2 for International Film Society members and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff and $1 for UW-Eau Claire students at the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727.


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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: April 22, 2003