2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: A POLAR YEAR

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Samuel Collardey chronicles the culture clash facing a Danish teacher on assignment in Greenland.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

Although he’s warned to expect boredom and bitter cold, Anders, a young Danish primary school teacher, accepts a post in Tiniteqiilaq, a remote village of 80 inhabitants in Greenland. Arriving with certain preconceptions – the “Danish look” as one villager calls it – Anders contends with cultural differences and an unruly classroom, to say nothing of the snow. Wondering what it takes to be accepted in this “hellhole,” he’s advised to try learning the language and local ways – hunting, sledding, fishing. How hard can it be, he figures, to ride a sled?

French filmmaker Samuel Collardey often explores the blurry terrain between fiction and documentary. Meticulously constructed, A POLAR YEAR blends purely documentary sequences with scripted moments involving the villagers. But these distinctions become academic as you give yourself over to cinema that’s thoroughly absorbing and visually breathtaking. Collardey spent months in the village before learning of Anders’s assignment and starting to film. His “reverse assimilation” story reflects delightfully on Eurocentrism as well as on Tiniteqiilaq’s indigenous people, changing seasons, and rhythms of life and death.

Some Background:

  • Samuel Collardey

    Collardey’s fourth feature is his first at Sundance, and continues his work in hybridized docufiction storytelling which previously has won acclaim at Venice.


  • Grégoire Debailly

    This is also the first Sundance credit for Geko Films’ Debailly, who has produced all of Collardey’s features to date.


  • Catherine Paillé

    Paillé has collaborated with Collardey on his previous short and feature work. Other projects have premiered at Cannes, Venice, Locarno, Berlin, and Toronto.


  • Julien Lacheray

    Lacheray previously edited 2015 Sundance narrative feature GIRLHOOD.

Why You Should Watch:
Whether capturing or restaging Anders’ awkwardness and cultural superiority, Collardey brings an effortlessness and winning charm to this fish out of water story.

More Info:
For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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