Modern life can be a drag. Anybody who lives in a large city or town will testify to that. Whether you are stacking shelves or pushing pencils, we all feel from time to time, that the grass is always greener somewhere else. That somewhere else may just be Niaqornat in Greenland. Completely isolated from the rest of society, Niaqornat is a tiny village which is surrounded by lush scenery and raw landscapes. Whilst it may sound idyllic, Niaqornat is a place no different from any of our towns or cities.
Village at the End of the World opens with a biblical quote about the great flood. It’s clear that director Sarah Gavron went into this film with the intention of making a film about climate change. The films early scenes show us how the changing climates are effecting the lifestyles of the locals. Very quickly though, the film does an about turn and decides to look at the individuals in this small community, rather than the bigger picture. It may sound like a cheap way out of tackling important issues but the film is all the better for it.
Niaqornat is home to only 59 residents. Most of them, of Inuit descent, are fisherman. Before the film’s cameras arrived at the town there used to be a prosperous fish factory which employed most of the town folk. Now though the factory has been closed down putting many locals out of work. Just like anywhere else in the world at the moment, the economic climate is harsh and it affects even the most far-flung reaches of the globe. Considering this is such a tight nit community, an industry closing down like this is something akin to genocide. Many town folks question if this place will survive, with a few even leaving in hope of better pursuits. The residents decide to rally together to purchase the factory and run it as a cooperative. That is what you could say is the backbone of the film, a small village’s personal salvation but there is so much more going on here.
Despite only having the population of the average British street, the inhabitants are far from average. The focal point of the film is young Lars. Just turned 18, Lars is a very modern man living in a traditional world. He supports Liverpool, has a Facebook account, listens to rap music and wears all the latest fashions. Growing up, he lived with his grandparents after his parents separated at an early age. Awkwardly his parents both still live in the village and he cannot help see them everyday. These problems could conceivable exist for any youths of his age, in any major city.
In a very slight way the film shows that the problems that may exist in your lives can exist even in these peoples, even though they are isolated from the hustle and bustle of a city centre. This is the documentaries greatest strength.
There is a quiet sadness that exists throughout the film. It doesn’t dwell upon it but you can sense that this humble way of life is coming to an end, especially during the interviews with the older citizens. The huntsmen who are featured frequently during the film are shown to be brave but desperate men, hunting down wildlife at great lengths. Blood and gore paint the surrounding snow crimson at times. Body parts and even a whale foetus, are casually left lying around without any real remorse. Even though the modern world is catching up with this lifestyle, some truths still remain.
In complete opposition, there is much hope and joy within the film. The refuse collector Ilanngauq provides many bittersweet comedy moments. An older fisherman is also a point of many laughs, mainly because of his honesty and bluntness. Towards the end of the film a cruise ship visits Niaqornat and the locals put on a tourism display. Although the residents are showcasing their traditional ways of life, Gavron cuts away to show them using mobiles and laptops. This point of the film seems to be asking you if you see these people as contemporaries or strange little people who live very different lives.
Full of beautiful cinematography, genuine people and fascinating moments, Sarah Gavron has made a documentary that goes completely against the conventions of the genre. Village at the End of the World is a joy of a film.