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Film Reviews Nunavut lacrosse drama The Grizzlies neatly sidesteps the very cultural landmines it lays down

In The Grizzlies, Inuit youth gain a powerful sense of pride through the sport of lacrosse.

Shane Mahood/Courtesy of Mongrel

The Grizzlies

Directed by: Miranda de Pencier

Written by: Moira Walley-Beckett and Graham Yost

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Starring: Will Sasso, Ben Schnetzer and Tantoo Cardinal

Classification: PG

102 minutes

rating

The film is based on a true story about a teacher from down south who uses the sport to bring together Nunavut teens reeling from a rash of suicides.

Shane Mahood/Courtesy of Mongrel

It’s a dangerous business these days to try to tell stories of another culture, especially one as historically marginalized as that of Canada’s Inuit. And the tear-jerking tale here – based on a true story about a teacher from down south who uses lacrosse to bring together Nunavut teens reeling from a rash of suicides – is suffused with possible landmines, from the white-saviour complex to cynical exploitation of tragedy.

But, working with Inuit producers and a cast studded with locals whose confidence and spirit belie their lack of experience (as well as U.S. actor Ben Schnetzer, who may remind some of Northern Exposure’s Rob Morrow), first-time feature director Miranda de Pencier delivers a crowd-pleasing (if sometimes clunky) drama.

At the least, it’s a fascinating puzzle: a film that is simultaneously an indictment of the toxic legacy of cultural imperialism and a weepie that employs the familiar tropes of Hollywood, one of the biggest machines of cultural imperialism on the planet.

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The Grizzlies opens April 19 in major cities across Canada before expanding May 3

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