The Village at the End of the World
- Gail Tolley
- 10 May 2013
Sensitively-made documentary about remote village life in Greenland
Niaqornat is a tiny settlement in north west Greenland. Accessible only by helicopter or boat, home to just over 50 people and surrounded by ice and snow for much of the year, it’s truly deserving of the title of ‘the village at the end of the world’. For this documentary, director Sarah Gavron (who previously adapted Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane) and her husband and cinematographer David Katznelson have filmed a year in the life of the isolated village, creating a sensitive portrait of a disappearing culture.
With such stark landscapes The Village at the End of the World could have wallowed in the austere aesthetic of this remote region. Instead, the lasting impression (as it arguably should be) is of the town’s inhabitants: teenager Lars, navigating hormones and the trials of small town life; Ilannguaq, the sewer collector who each day empties the toilets of the village’s houses; and Annie, the oldest woman in Niaqornat who offers an insight into a time when seal blubber was used for lighting. This isn’t a doc filled with high drama, but there’s plenty of food for thought. For example, seeing how the locals react to the arrival of tourists, who stop off as part of cruise, is particularly intriguing and reveals the side of tourism that most of us don’t experience.
The Village at the End of the World is comparable to other recent documentaries, like Sweetgrass (which follows the last remaining ‘cowboys’ of Montana’s Absaroka‐Beartooth mountains) and while it isn’t revelatory in content or style, it’s a considered work that offers a glimpse of a part of the world that many would know little about otherwise.
Limited release from Fri 10 May.