Toronto documentarian Alan Zweig (Vinyl, When Jews Were Funny, Hurt) continues his raw excavation of contemporary guilt, prejudice, and existential nausea—much of it his own—with this gutting portrait of Inuit life in the Far North. With singer Lucie Idlout as his somewhat ambivalent guide, Zweig worms his way into the homes of families embattled by generations of abuse from residential schools, foster homes, and the persistent contagions of poverty, alcoholism, and violence. His questions are blunt and sometimes painfully naive, but Zweig can take it on the chin and his humour is more disarming up here than you’d probably think. Traditional life and an essential goodness persist and provide an ideal to those who lose their way, not to mention a pragmatic solution to all the orphaned kids.
Still, with Zweig as our surrogate, the dissonance is stunning. An old-timer says he feels sorry for white people who “think they’re gods, but they’re not,” and the filmmaker ultimately receives a polite but steely shutdown when he confronts Idlout about her own demons. It's a withering moment, because we know, deep down, that her experience is impenetrable to even the most well-meaning of outsiders. The cold hard message is that reconciliation—and more vitally, understanding—means a hell of a lot more than sending Trudeau up to the podium with another apology.
Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre, December 2 (8 p.m.); Maury Young Arts Centre, December 3 (9 p.m.)