Set in the small arctic hamlet of Pangnirtung, Nunavut, on the longest day of the year when the sun does not set for 24 hours, writer-director Nyla Innuksuk harnesses her personal experience to create a coming of age adult with a touch of alien invasion. Co-written with Ryan Cavan, “Slash/Return” follows a group of rebellious teenage girls coming to terms with their own indigenous identities while battling mysterious shape-shifting creatures as their parents celebrate the solstice.
At the center of the group is Maika (a sassy Tasiana Shirley), whose internalized shame about her indigeneity manifests itself in responding only in English to her Inuktitut-speaking parents and turning her nose up at the story of his family as hunters. More interested in getting cellphone minutes and an invite to the cutest boy in school party, she neglects her little sister Aju (Frankie Vincent-Wolfe) and fights with her best friend Uki (the tough guy). cook Nalajoss Ellsworth). When the girls discover the impending alien invasion, Maika learns that her community’s traditional survival skills might be the only thing that can save her home.
Shot on location with local crews, cinematographer Guy Godfree captures the brutal Arctic snow with stark contrasts highlighting just how isolated Pangnirtung truly is. By combining elements of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” with stories of Ijiraq, shape-shifting creatures believed to kidnap children, Innuksuk reminds us that many popular horror stories also have indigenous roots. While the lo-fi CGI creatures reveal the film’s low budget, it more than makes up for it with some seriously gnarly fight sequences in the back half. The Pang girls are really tough, and I can’t wait to see what Innuksuk does next.
The similar low-budget drama “Soft & Silent” from writer-director Beth de Araújo tackles her budget constraints by keeping locations minimal and a tight ensemble cast. Shot over four days from start to finish to keep the feel of real time, the film follows an evening in the life of Emily (an annoying Stefanie Estes), a kindergarten teacher who initiates the first meeting of a group of supremacists. whites called Daughters of Aryan Unity.
The women in the group run the gamut of white supremacist rhetoric. Emily is obsessed with the respect she feels she deserves as a pure white woman. Mom and store owner Kim (Dana Millican) has no problem dropping the n-word in casual conversation. Recently released from prison, Leslie (a creepy Olivia Luccardi) just wants the stability of a group that tells her what to do. Slowly, the banter of a typical women’s group turns into tangy discussions about the superiority of ethnic states over multiculturalism, jobs stolen by immigrants, the virtues of being feminine over feminists, and more. When the action shifts to Kim’s store, an altercation with two mixed-race Asian sisters Lily (Cissy Ly) and Ann (Melissa Paulo), the whole night takes a very dark turn.