The Reel Review
Isolated in their sleepy fishing village of Pangnirtung in the Canadian Arctic, a group of pre-teen Inuit girls make use of survival skills learned from their parents and the constant summer daylight to save their hamlet from an alien invasion, in this young adult sci-fi/horror.
The most interesting part of co-writer/director Nyla Innuksuk’s film debut is the spectacular visuals of the village in Nunavut, near the Arctic Circle. The fact that she was able to pull off making a feature film here is remarkable. For the vast majority of viewers unfamiliar with this extremely remote region, it is fascinating to behold, even when the cute, kid-oriented premise – pre-teen girls saving their village – starts to fizzle, which unfortunately it does rather quickly. Innuksuk touches on some Inuit challenges – poverty, food insecurity and expensive cell coverage – but more incorporation of Inuit traditions into the story could have gone a long way in making the film more interesting.
Hampered by clunky pacing that oddly is too slow in the quieter moments and too rushed in the busier ones, the forced dialogue in Slash/Back is also sometimes hard to follow, despite decent performances from at least some of its endearing cast of local acting newbies, and practical effects that range from ridiculously hokey hand puppets to remarkably disturbing contortion work and effects involving giant earthworm-like tentacles. Innuksuk does manage to subtly slide in some heavier themes – the back of Maika’s jacket reads “No Justice On Stolen Land” – which makes up at least a bit for the film’s other shortcomings. Regardless, it is refreshing to see an Inuit film that isn’t a documentary.
• Filmed in the summer of 2019, Slash/Back is the first movie ever filmed in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. Fifty beds were flown in, to house the production crew at the hamlet’s two local schools.
• The Inuit “country food” referenced in the film consists of nutrient-rich fish and game, such as arctic char, seal, polar bear and caribou – often raw, frozen or dried. The curved Inuit ulu knife briefly shown in the film is used both as a butchering/skinning tool and an eating utensil.
• Prior to Slash/Back, Nunavut-born director Nyla Innuksuk’s primary focus was on documentaries and short films about Inuit young people and the social issues they face.
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