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TIFF Review: The Grizzlies

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A first-time teacher is ignorant of the Inuit ways in the Arctic community of Kugluktuk and forms a lacrosse team in an effort to curb the high suicide rate.

Back in 1998, newly graduated teacher Russ Sheppard (Ben Schnetzer) gets his own lessons in cultural sensitivity upon his arrival in Kugluktuk, Nunavut which is a view as a brief stepping stone to his real career objectives; he shocked to learn about the high suicide rate among the Inuit youth which leads him to establish a lacrosse league.  Not everything goes smoothly as Sheppard has to contend to with Elders, council members, parents and students who question the validity of the venture.

The teacher as an inspiration could be consider genre in itself with high caliber offerings being To Sir, with Love and Dead Poets Society.  Unfortunately, The Grizzlies is second tier effort as everything feels as if a beat sheet is being marked off along the way.  One has to wonder if co-writer Graham Yost infused too much of his Hollywood expertise into what is an overtly formulaic screenplay.   There are not enough clever moments such as when the students have to race against a dog during a practice session.  The performances of the cast are serviceable but not captivating.  The story is lacking the hefty emotional punch needed to become a call for action for communities and governments to address the suicide epidemic plaguing Inuit youth.

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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