Sundance Movie Review: On The Ice
I was lucky enough to attend a screening of On The Ice at the Sundance Film Festival last night, followed by a Q&A with the director and crew. For those of you interested in Independent Movies, or good movies in general, On The Ice is definitely one put on your list.
On The Ice is a thriller based in the small Alaskan town of Barrow. It was adapted by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean from a short (Sikumi) that premiered at Sundance a few years ago.
The beginning of the film serves to introduce the incredibly unique northern Alaskan culture; Barrow is like an island of ice, snowmobiles, and the rapidly evolving Iñupiaq culture. Residents travel between their modest houses on snowmobiles, and the teenagers perform in a native dance exhibition before heading to a rap party. This fascinating juxtaposition of history, western culture, and environmental demands create a movie worth watching; but then the actors draw you in.
All of the actors in the film literally had no previous acting experience, which is absolutely astounding considering the magnitude of their performance. The main characters Qalli (Josiah Patkotak) and Aivaaq (Frank Qutuq Irelan), are two friends in the transition period between high school and what comes after high school. For Qalli it’s college, far away from Barrow. and for Aivaaq it’s being a father to his recently conceived child. One morning while hunting, a drug-influenced fight ends with a third boy (John Miller) accidentally being killed. Qalli and Aivaaq, horrified and worried about their future, make a rash decision; a decision which brings chaos and heartache to the secluded town.
With a well-written story, a powerful score, and beautiful cinematography, On The Ice is exactly what you hope a Sundance movie to be. It is a thought-provoking look at self-preservation and friendship, all set against a back-drop never before showcased in a film. If you have the chance to see it before Sundance is over, make sure you do. If not, keep your eyes out, because it’s likelihood of distribution is high.