Lars is the only teenager in town who, in a community of hunters doesn't want to hunt. Niaqornat in North West Greenland has a population of only 59, with no local industry people are being forced to leave to find jobs in the nearest town. Whilst the rest of the community pull together to try and re-open the fish-factory, Lars begins to plan his escape.
Like all villages, Niaqornat has its supporters and detractors amongst the local populace. For some it is paradise, they can’t imagine living anywhere else, for others it’s the last place on earth they want to be. For most Niaqornat is simply home. We know that there are very real pressures on a place like this – the ice is melting, the government no longer wants to subsidise the supply ship that brings the food that can’t be hunted locally, and people are leaving due to the lack of work. Ultimately Village At The End Of The World is a film that reflects the dilemmas of most small communities all over the world, this one just happens to be in one of the remotest spots on earth.
LARS the Teenager: “It is lonely being a teenager here – there are no internet cafes, no bars, just the shop”. There are no roads in or out either – if you want to leave you go by helicopter, weather permitting. Lars has never ventured further than a few miles up the coast but regularly chats to his 200 friends across the globe on Facebook. Teenage thrills are limited in Niaqornat but Lars lives a rich “virtual” life. He orders the latest fashions over the internet, blasts out rap across the icebergs and is often to be seen dressed up with nowhere to go and no-one to meet. Lars doesn’t want to be a hunter, a brave and controversial decision in a community that relies on hunting. Lars’ life, spent between his grandparents home where he lives and the shop where he works is both aimless and poignant. The film follows his emotional journey as he grapples with his feelings towards his family and tries to work out what and where his future will be.
KARL the Hunter: Karl is a respected hunter in the region and as the head of the village is in charge of the efforts to re-open the fish factory. Karl believes that the spirit of his forefathers guides him when hunting large animals, the traditional way of life is in his blood. Karl manages to combine the benefits of living in the 21st century with maintaining the age-old customs, he records shooting a polar bear on his mobile phone and when the ice is too weak for the huskies he will take out the skidoo; at home his wife worries that he’ll come back safely. Karl is concerned that the increasingly unstable ice and modern aspirations of the villagers mean the hunters way of life, once so vital to the existence of the community, will end with the next generation.
ILANNGUAQ the Outsider: Ilannguaq, originally from South Greenland moved to Niaqornat for love, having found his girlfriend online. When he first met her face to face he says he couldn’t keep his, ‘paws off her’. He has taken the job no one else wants, the daily collection of the bucket toilets from each home in a village without running water. Ilannguaq has a wry sense of humour about, ‘shit shovelling’ but is also proud of his role, “they call me ‘the clock’ – without me the village doesn’t run”. Ilannguaq’s journey is the reverse of his friend Lars. By the end of the film, after five years in the village he finally feels he belongs. Ilannguaq is keen to help his neighbours make a viable living and sets up a local tourism service. He manages to persuade cruise boats to put Niaqornat on their itinerary and for a few hours at a time tourists visit the village and Illannguaq acts as their self appointed guide.
ANNIE the Oldest lady in Niaqornat. Annie is our window onto the past and can’t imagine living anywhere else other than the Village. Annie is related to almost all her neighbours and recalls the myths and stories of The Shamen; she can remember when the community relied on seal blubber for light, and lived just from what they caught locally, before the introduction of the regular supply ship. Annie is our ballast – she personifies a connection to the old life and makes the idea of the village disappearing loaded with poignancy.
It is an alien place at first look; a hunting settlement, only reached by helicopter, or boat when the ice breaks up, without running water, or vegetation. The Inuit village of Niaqornat is perched on the edge of a vast landmass, surrounded by imposing icebergs, shards of the receding inland glacier - a remnant of the Ice Age.
Other films of Greenland have mostly focused on nature, or the social issues of the cities. We wanted to tell the story of the people we met in the settlement, revealing their resilience, wit and determination. As we began filming, the population of 59 dropped and the village faced potential closure. We chart their lives across the arctic seasons, as they fight to keep their traditions, battle with the dangers of thinning ice, whilst finding an identity in the modern world.
Niaqornat is a place of extremes– we move from midnight sun to midday darkness, the young craft shaman symbols and also surf the internet, but at it’s heart this is a story of traditional communities world over. When a cruise ship arrives to witness “authentic” Inuit life, our intention is to place the viewer on the inside, to open up the question of whether these communities can survive.
Recently it has been all over the news that scientists are stunned by Greenland’s ice sheet melting over a far larger area than expected. Almost the entire ice cover of Greenland has experienced some melting at its surface this year (2012), usually only half of the ice sheet melts naturally during an average summer. This further highlights the precarious existence of Niaqornat and makes it clear that Greenland is now the heartbeat of our planet. I hope that Village At The End of The World connects the audience to this global story.