Sikumi (On The Ice)

Sikumi (On The Ice)

****1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Out hunting on the frozen Arctic Ocean with his dogs and sled, Apuna (Brad Weyiouanna) notices something in the distance and stops. Through his binoculars, he sees two men fighting violently on the ice. A knife is raised, and brought down several times. Taqi (Olemaun Rexford) dies from his wounds shortly after Apuna reaches him, and a little later Taqi's killer Miqu (Tony Bryant) ruefully returns. Apuna wants to take Taqi's body back with him, but Miqu is determined that the crime should be covered up so that his own life is not ruined too, leading to a stand-off between the two men with an unexpected resolution.

Like Erik Skjoldbjaerg's Insomnia (1997), Sikumi (On the Ice) sets itself up as a tense thriller, but then turns out to be much closer to the ethical wastelands of film noir – an impression enhanced by the unforgiving white of the icy setting, disrupted only by the silhouettes of the character or by the occasional, ominous flash of red.

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Shot near Barrow, Alaska, Andrew Okpeaha MacLean's film exploits the vast, barren landscape of America's northernmost point to stage the chilliest of moral dramas. Here, an accidental eyewitness to murder finds himself the champion of justice in a place where the only authorities are a long sled-ride away and the only law is that which men carry in their hearts. Apuna and Miqu will negotiate in their shared Inupiaq tongue, until Miqu will be confronted by the enormity of what he has done in terms that require no words.

Filmed by DP Cary Fukunaga in wide shots that seem to swallow up the principal characters, or in impressionistic close-ups of dogs, knives and blood, Sikumi is certainly stark, and yet there is room even in this cold, austere backdrop for the warmth of the human spirit, so that the short can end with a vision that all at once encompasses man's tiny insignificance in a hostile universe, and yet redefines and affirms the very values of humanism. Many films of much longer duration struggle to capture so powerfully or so clearly so complex a moral paradox.

Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2008
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An Inuit hunter inadvertantly witnesses a murder.

Director: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean

Writer: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean

Starring: Tony Bryant, Olemaun Rexford, Brad Weyiouanna

Year: 2008

Runtime: 15 minutes

Country: US


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