Jonathon Stanton’s documentary, which was originally broadcast on PBS, focuses on three young Inuit athletes who are keeping alive the traditional sports activities of Alaska’s aboriginal population. Through statewide competitions and international events involving aboriginal teams from other Arctic Circle nations, the athletes perform physical feats designed to test their endurance and stamina.
While a few of these events seem a bit awkward to non-Inuit viewers – including the “knuckle hop,” “butt hop” and “kneel jump” – all of these events have their roots in traditional Arctic hunting protocol. Also present here is Brian Randazzo, a legendary champion in this niche sports world, who serves as the film’s narrator while explaining his own athletic odyssey.
Unfortunately, the film provides tantalizing but sketchy glimpses of the athletes’ lives beyond competition – we never truly get to know any of them very well. The problem is the film’s 26-minute running time, which does not allow for too much depth. If anything, it would have been grand to follow the athletes’ training at greater length and to see more of the events and the international competitors in the Arctic Winter Games.
Nonetheless, Stanton’s well-made film provides a fascinating introduction to a distinctive sporting tradition that is rarely appreciated by the wider world.