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The Necessities of Life (Ce qu'il faut pour vivre)

Posted Date: 27 August 2009 at 02:43:45PM

The Necessities of Life/Ce qu'il faut pour vivre (2008)
Director: Benoit Pilon
Cast: Natar Ungalaaq, Denis Bernard, Antoine Bertrand and Paul-Andre Brasseur
Genre: Drama
Run time: 102 min


It's not every day that one is privileged to watch a truly heart-warming and inspiring film. Especially when said film is Canadian and follows the story of an Inuit hunter diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 1952.


It is also rare to find an Inuit man strolling the streets of Sydney or enjoying the sun at Bondi Beach, but this week you may have witnessed both given that Possible Worlds, the Canadian Film Festival, has just finished its annual run in Sydney this August.


Natar Ungalaaq is an actor, filmmaker and well-known Inuit sculptor. He stars in director Benoit Pilon's film, The Necessities of Life (Ce qu'il faut pour vivre), about an Inuit Hunter named Tivii who is diagnosed with Tuberculosis, separated from his family on Baffin Island and shipped to Quebec City for treatment.


Tivii is plagued, not only by illness, but the uncertainty of whether his family will survive without him and alienation since he doesn't speak French and is the only Inuk man being treated in the sanatorium. He rapidly loses hope and the will to survive until a compassionate Nurse finds a way to give him hope and companionship. Ungalaaq made the long journey from the Arctic to Sydney this week to attend the Australian Premier of the film.


The Necessities of Life was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film this year and it is obvious why. Pilon captures each character with such conviction that they barely have to speak and the audience understands and empathizes with them completely. Ungalaaq's performance is so truthful that, despite moments when he is alone and does not speak, the emotion expressed in his eyes is palpable. One is drawn in and can truly feel his suffering and confusion. This is further emphasized by close-ups that reveal the gentle sloping planes of Ungalaaq's face that compliment the softness of his character.


The landscapes in the film are striking and effortlessly showcase the contrast between Tivii's home in the stark, but eerily beautiful Arctic and the European architecture and tree-lined streets of Quebec City. Pilon captures these two regions from Tivii's perspective in dream like sequences that encapsulate the depth of the cultural divide between him and the white Catholic nurses and patients who inhabit the sanatorium.


The Necessities of Life is a quality human story that provides insight into Inuit and Canadian culture and history, the human spirit, compassion, hope and love. It is a tribute to humanity and a true testament to the art of filmmaking and the Inuit way of storytelling.









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