Akornatsinniittut – Tarratta Nunaanni (Among Us – In the Land of
Marc Fussing Rosbach
by Jocelyn Piirainen
What happens when you combine traditional Inuit stories with modern storytelling techniques? One answer can be found in emerging Greenlandic director and producer Marc Fussing Rosbach’s debut featurelength film Akornatsinniittut — Tarratta Nunaanni (Among Us — In the Land of Our Shadows) (2017). It is an entertaining, family-friendly adventure that deftly mixes Hollywood film references with Western Greenlandic culture and tradition. Having made its international premiere in October 2018 at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, ON, Rosbach’s film is also the first science fiction feature to come from Greenland.
The film follows the lives of two close friends Nukappi (Casper Bach Zeeb) and Mio (Rosbach), living in Ilulissat, Greenland. Nukappi wakes one morning, unsettled by a dream of a world of darkness and an ominous encounter with a hooded figure shrouded in mystery. The dreams continue over some time until Nukappi is visited by an old man (Jørgen Kristensen) who tells him that he, like his grandfather before, is an angakkoq (shaman)—one of few who are still alive today. Putting his trust and acceptance in everything the mysterious visitor tells him, Nukappi eventually learns to harness his burgeoning powers and is able to manipulate the air pressure around him—even pushing and pulling Mio around the frozen landscape outside the city.
Rosbach keeps the largely muted and atmospheric tone of the film well-balanced, often rounding out more serious scenes with light, comedic touches. These pop culture references permeate even the more dramatic moments of the film. In the opening scene, Mio and Nukappi discuss girls and relationships, and how they do not quite understand either. Mio ends the conversation by giving advice to Nukappi saying, “There’s plenty of mattak (whale skin and blubber) in the sea,” playing on the cliché “there’s plenty of fish in the sea.” In another instance, Nukappi finally confesses to Mio that he’s an angakkoq, with new-found abilities. In response, Mio jokingly waves his hand in the air as if he was carrying a wizard’s wand and exclaims, “EXPELLIARMUS!”, referencing the spell cast by wizards in the highly popular Harry Potter (1997–2007) series. “Can you be more serious? This is not a movie,” Nukappi dryly responds. It only takes a single beat before Rosbach—both as Mio and as the director—slowly and coyly turns his head towards the camera, breaking the “fourth wall,” acknowledging this is a movie.
The tenser currents of the plot are interwoven with these scenes of brevity as viewers are introduced to Tarratta Nunaanni, a parallel dimension where the dark
angakkoq from Nukappi’s dream attempts to take over and destroy the human world. The antagonist goes as far as possessing Mio to steal one of the portal objects that allow the angakkoq to travel between worlds. From then on, it’s a battle between light and dark, between good and evil, where Rosbach’s strong filmmaking skills are most evident.
The film progresses at a steady pace, giving ample time to engage with the quotidian aspects of the character’s lives. Moments of quiet thoughtfulness reveal the pair’s inward reflections and their attempts to solve their personal issues. This grants viewers the opportunity to connect to them through their own shared experiences and also to laugh at their youthfulness.
In the more dramatic moments— particularly the thrilling action scenes between Nukappi and the dark angakkoq—
Rosbach utilizes impressive visual effects to further achieve the believability of the powers bestowed on the characters. Crisp blue, green and rich magenta lights represent the angakkoq’s supernatural abilities, set off from the distinct noir tones of the film. Circular portals with concentric rings of illuminated script glow in the Arctic dusk allowing the characters to travel between worlds while providing a compelling realism to the more fantastic elements of the story.
Akornatsinniittut — Tarratta Nunaanni is an ambitious debut for the self-taught Rosbach, who is credited as the writer, editor, director, music composer, co-producer, visual effects artist and co-starring actor. Perhaps, just as with Nukappi and Mio, the director heard accounts of the angakkoq and has been able to preserve, relay and breathe new life into traditional myths through modern filmmaking, telling their stories once again. Yet, the film left me wondering what will happen to the pair and their newfound powers. The director has stated that there is more to come with another film already in the works. Here, Rosbach has proved that the magic of film can be a vital tool and, with perseverance and humour, is one in which others may also find inspiration to reimagine their own unique ways of cultural storytelling.
Rosbach keeps the largely muted and atmospheric tone of the film well-balanced, often rounding out more serious scenes with light, comedic touches.
Marc Fussing Rosbach (b. 1995 Ilulissat) — Akornatsinniittut – Tarrata Nunaanni (Among Us – In the Land of Our Shadows) (stills) 2017 Video 93 min COURTESY FUROS IMAGE