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Before Tomorrow


Year: 2008
Language: Inuktitut
Format: 35mm/Colour
Runtime: 93 minutes
Director: Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Madeline Piujuq Ivalu
Producer: Stéphane Rituit
Executive Producer: Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk
Cinematographer: Norman Cohn, Félix Lajeunesse
Editor: Norman Cohn, Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Félix Lajeunesse, Louis Dugal
Sound: Richard Lavoie, Arnaud Derimay
Music: Kate McGarrigle, Anna McGarrigle, Joel Zifkin
Cast: Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, Paul-Dylan Ivalu, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Mary Qulitalik, Tumasie Sivuarapik
Production Company: Igloolik Isuma Productions/ Kunuk Cohn Productions
Production Designer: Susan Avingaq
Canadian Distributor: Alliance Films
International Sales Agent: Isuma Distribution International

A debut feature from directors Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, Before Tomorrow poetically brings Canadian history to life onscreen. Based on the book Før Morgendagen by famed Danish author Jørn Riel, the film  is reminiscent of Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn’s groundbreaking films Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. (Both Kunuk and Cohn serve as executive producers on Before Tomorrow).

Ningiuq (Ivalu) and her best friend Kutuujuk (Mary Qulitalik) are elders in an Inuit family in the mid-nineteenth century. During the summer, their community comes together with a neighboring family to tell stories, marry the young, and share food. But Ningiuq is worried: Kutuujuk is sick and stories about the Europeans’ impending advance are gaining momentum. After a particularly bountiful catch, Ningiuq, her grandson Maniq (Paul-Dylan Ivalu) and Kutuujuk volunteer to dry the fish. On a remote island away from wolves and other animals, Kutuujuk faces her final days. Ningiuq senses that all is not well at home, and when no one comes for them, Ningiuq and Maniq start the journey home themselves – only to discover that Ningiuq’s worst fears may have come true.

Distilling the grand narrative of first contact into a more intimate encounter, Cousineau, Ivalu and co-writer Susan Avingaq explore how this historic event changed not only the Inuit people, but the entire world. Made in a subtle observational style that lends the films a sense of history made real, Before Tomorrow is a recasting of Canada’s wilderness ethos and its representation onscreen. The use of both European and Inuit storytelling structures furthers the cinematic language established in Atanarjuat and Knud Rasmussen, and reflects the rapid development of Native cinema in Canada.

An assured and captivating film, Before Tomorrow won the best Canadian first feature film at the Toronto International Film Festival, a Genie Award for costume design, and was named one of Canada’s Top Ten films of 2008 by an independent panel of Canadian filmmakers, programmers, journalists, and industry professionals. Additionally, the film played the Sundance festival and was nominated for two Jutra Awards and nine Genie Awards, including best picture, best direction, and best screenplay. The film also received the 2008 Best Film accolade at the American Indian Movie Awards.


By: Jesse Wente