Niaqornat is a tiny Greenlandic village that, at the time of filming, had 59 inhabitants. Village At The End of The World takes a year in the life of the community and looks at the struggles its people face – including the only teenager in the area, and those who do not speak to one another even though they see each another every day – and those that the community face in order to survive.
Village At The End of The World is a fascinating documentary about a village that is strangely stuck between the old world and the new. The stories that the people tell are fascinating, and there is a degree of innocence around some of the villagers and old superstitions still remain.
Director Sarah Gavron and her family spent three years making the film and took six trips to Niaqornat, getting to know and film the people there. The film focuses on four people, and is broken down into the seasons, and with each changing of the weather it seems that things get worse of the villagers. Over the course of the year, teenager Lars must deal with the fact that he does not want to be a hunter like his (estranged) father, and make a decision about his future. Karl is a hunter, and the only man to catch a polar bear on the peninsula this year. Karl is also Lars’s father, even though they have only spoken once. Ilannguaq moved to Niaqornat for love and took on a job that no one else in the village wants and Annie is the oldest woman living in the area.
This combination of people is curious, but it gives a good overview of the issues facing people in the area. As the audience learns more about Niaqornat, the fact that there is no infrastructure there since the fish factory was shut down and the isolation that the inhabitants must deal with, it is easy to wonder why someone would move to the area as Ilannguaq did, and why Lars did not leave a long time ago. The villagers struggle to stay together and, while they may chat with people around the world online, and listen to McFly on iPods, this is still a region of the world that is arguably untouched. This contradiction is what makes the film so fascinating.
The film also follows the people of Niaqornat as they try to get their village back up and running again; hunters may give food for free, but this is not always enough to rely on, so the villagers try to buy the fish factory back and start running it again. This is not examined in much detail and it is a shame; it seems that a lot of the villagers clammed up at the sight of the cameras, and it would have been interesting to see debates about the future opened up on screen.
The way of life in Niaqornat is not one that many of us would want, and for those of us who have never had to hunt our food, it may be one that we find difficult to understand, but what Gavron illustrates in her film is that this is a community that wants to stay alive, despite the fact it is threatened by globalisation, recession and climate change. The film also reminds us that the world is strange and unpredictable and that we are not as in control as we would like to think we are.
In all, The Village At The End of The World is a fascinating culture study of people whose lives are a clash between old and new. The cinematography is simply stunning and, even though the film may land a little on the light side, and at times it is unclear what the film is trying to do, other than document, it is a film that will stay with audiences long after they have left the cinema.