Published January 25, 2011
Finding an Arctic Outpost in Park City via 'On the Ice'
Yesterday, my first full day on the ground in Park City, started with a whimper and ended with a bang. In the morning I passed the time by taking in back-to-back press screenings. The Music Never Stopped is a tearjerker about a chronic amnesiac who reconnects with his father by listening to Grateful Dead records with him. After that, against my better judgement, I wandered into Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw the Devil, a depraved revenge thriller touted as “one of the most graphically extreme films ever committed to film.” Ravaged and craving nuance, my relief was palpable as I took my seat at the world premiere of On the Ice. A festival insider gave me the poop that this film is an early favorite to win the Grand Jury Prize in the Dramatic category. Like last year’s winner Winter’s Bone, On the Ice sets its universal story within a landscape and culture that is exotic to most viewers. In the arctic outpost of Barrow, Alaska, one of the northernmost cities of the world, three teenaged Iñupiaq boys get into trouble out on the ice and only two of them return. The web of deceit they weave to cover their tracks sends shockwaves through the small town. Immensely appealing performances by the nonprofessional cast and a script that’s tight as a drum leads me to place my bet on this film to be a breakaway favorite both on the festival circuit and beyond. At the post-screening Q&A first time director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean assembled his cast and crew, most of whom had just seen the finished film for the first time. The two young leads Josiah Patkotak and Frank Qutuq Irelan grinned and clapped each others shoulders and jabbed fists. It was easy to see that the experience of making this film had bonded them for life.
—Michael Read, Publications Manager, San Francisco Film Society