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TIFF 2021 Review: Angakusajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice

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A young shaman descends into the underworld with her mentor in an effort to cure a mysteriously ill community member.

When a shaman is unable to learn from her patient what was the cultural taboo he has committed to bring forth his deadly illness, she embarks with her apprentice into the underworld to find the answer herself.  The journey is a heightened reality filled with ghostly skeletons, a giant wolf that eats fearful visitors, and a nightmarish shaman that reveals the circumstances that led to sinful action.

Check out all of our TIFF coverage
The winter landscape that surrounds the stop-motion characters is beautifully bleak and makes one feel the permeating cold.  Dialogue is not the driving force of narrative as the two principal leads go about doing what needs to be done rather than debating the proper course of action.  The apprentice is compliant and absorbs what she witnesses which makes the relationship with her master all the more believable and profound.

A beautiful visual is the long snow tunnel that must be crawled through in order to reach the underworld.  There has been digital augmentation which serves to enhance the storytelling.  The pacing of the narrative is steady and each frame has a sense of meaning and purpose.  Not sure if the short could be expanded into a feature but the craftmanship is there to do so.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

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

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