The constant carousel of ever-changing trending topics on social media is fertile ground for manufactured outrage. A topic most people have never heard of suddenly fuels the ire of a million angry tweeters screaming through their keyboards.
One could make a compelling argument that the controversy surrounding Canadian seal hunting is the original source of manufactured outrage. For decades, groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare have loudly and angrily protested the hunting of seals. Despite the fact that seals are far from an endangered species and that Inuit have been sustainably hunting seals since time immemorial, seal hunting suddenly became the world’s greatest evil.
In Angry Inuk, director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril examines the Inuit practice of seal hunting, the culture surrounding it and how anti-sealing efforts have harmed Inuit communities. The film examines the relationship (or lack thereof) between animal welfare groups and Inuit communities in the time before and after a vote by European parliament that could potentially crush the seal trade, leaving Inuit traders destitute.
It’s a shame films don’t utilize the arctic landscape nearly as much as, say, the mesas of the American southwest. It’s even rarer to see Inuit characters and culture onscreen, and to hear Inuktitut spoken. Arnaquq-Baril’s smartest choice is allowing these aspects to drive her film more than politics.
The strongest case against seal bans is the harm it does to Inuit communities and cultures, and her film cherishes both. It’s as informed by Inuit identity as much as a film like Italianamerican is informed by Martin Scorsese’s Italian identity. But rather than just a formal asset, it also bolsters her ethical arguments.
Unfortunately, the film can feel too meandering. Shot over the course of eight years, it’s mostly a chronological exercise. The central conflict of the European vote doesn’t arise until about 30 minutes in. While the issues obviously didn’t disappear when the vote was over, the film itself is hungry for some kind of narrative arc. Instead, it just kind of keeps going until it doesn’t anymore.
It’s still a strong piece of activist filmmaking and basically a force for good in the world. But the film itself could have been as moving as the struggles it presents.