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If this is your land, where is your camera?: Atanarjuat, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen and post-cinematic adaptation

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As unique examples of the contemporary, transnational art film, Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn’s Atanarjuat (2001) and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006) are stylistically distinct, their formal differences traceable to each film’s provenance as an adaptation of a specific type: Atanarjuat adapts an Inuit myth; The Journals of Knud Rasmussen sections of the ethnographer’s actual journals. At the same time, as remediations of radically different media forms, these films can be read according to the categories outlined by Jan Assmann, respectively, embodying ‘the normative and formative values of a community, its “truth”’, answering the questions ‘Who are we?’ and ‘What shall we do?’. These films also correspond to Astrid Erll’s categories of memory-productive and memory-reflexive film, respectively, reflecting formally and thematically upon Inuit cultural memory in the digital era. This article explores the myriad implications for cultural memory of this marriage of cutting-edge digital video technology with ancient themes and folkways, in effect a pre-literate ‘oral’ culture translated seemingly wholesale to the screen. I consider these Inuit films in terms of the question of cultural memory as it becomes trans-cultural, and national cinema as it becomes trans-national, while the local and ‘indigenous’ find representation at a level of global legibility.
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Keywords: Inuit film; cultural memory; digital video; post-cinematic adaptation; remediation; self-reflexivity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Wilfrid Laurier University

Publication date: July 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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