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NYFF: “The Journals of Knud Rasmussen.”

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"We believe happy people should not worry about hidden things."
The immediate thrill of Zacharias Kunuk‘s two films, 2001’s "The Fast Runner" and this year’s "The Journals of Knud Rasmussen" (which he co-directed with Norman Cohn), is anthropological. For most of us, the world they depict is an exquisitely alien one of unbroken white vistas and pervasive, almost corporeal cold in which the idea eking out any existence, much less the culturally rich and happy one of "Journals," is hard to fathom. Kunuk knows this, and a good portion of the film is dedicated to taking in the otherwise unchronicled rhythms of traditional Inuit life.

"Journal" is in fact based on the work of an anthropologist — the half-Inuit, half-Danish Rasmussen, who in the 1920s traveled the Canadian Arctic gathering details for maps and documenting tribal customs and folklore of different tribes. He published some of the definitive research texts on Inuit culture, which at the time of film’s setting, 1922, was already being threatened by encroaching European culture and Christian missionaries. The film’s central pair, the great shaman Avva and his beautiful, willful daughter Apak, live at historical turning point for their people.

At the beginning of the film, Rasmussen meets up with Avva and his family. He has with him two other Danes (one played by "Pusher"‘s Kim Bodnia) who are hoping to negotiate travel to Iglulik, where Avva is from and where he left after the community converted to Christianity. And after that, Rasmussen disappears almost unheralded, which is one of the other exciting, and sometimes irritating aspects of Kunuk’s work. He’s a self-taught filmmaker, and his approach has an abandon and a disregard for typical narrative signposting and structure that can be rewarding and can other times just confusing.

"Journals" may not be as coherent or accessible as "The Fast Runner," but it is still a fascinating and deeply compassionate film. Pakak Innukshuk in particular as Avva is a figure of quiet tragedy, the lone holdout standing by traditions that are thousands of years old and suddenly unwanted. He delivers a wonderful monologue explaining how he became a shaman that shifts into a justification of the rules that have for so long governed how his people have lived, and he stands alone in the end, in what is one of the most mournful scenes in recent cinema.

The cast of "Journals" consists mainly of non-professional actors, and the film (shot on DV) sometimes has the feel of documentary, by necessity as much as intent — you can’t plan around a arctic blizzard. In another scene during a celebration, a character dressed up in a costume and dancing turns around and walks smack into the camera. Everyone laughs, but there’s never a feeling of breaking through the fourth wall. It’s more that the line between acting and living fades, and maybe it was never that important anyway.

Screens October 8 and 9 at Alice Tully Hall.

+ "The Journals of Knud Rasmussen" (NYFF)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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