May 19, 2020  (Web Review)

Aga

Big World Pictures, 96 min., in Yakut w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $29.99, Mar. 31

Reviewer rating: 4.0/4

As with Robert Flaherty in his classic Nanook of the North, Bulgarian filmmaker Milko Lazerov creates an ethnographic narrative of dwellers in the arctic. Traveling to the Mongolian-Asian far north, in Yakutia, he uses a sparse cast of locals re-enacting timeless traditional life, often with sublime visuals. The simple but affecting story, strung along astounding widescreen vistas and snowy-white compositions depicts aged couple, Nanook (Mikhail Aprosimov) and his ailing but upbeat wife Sedna (Feodosia Ivanova), in their routines of trapping, fur-making (not simulated, we must warn animal lovers) and protecting their yurt during heavy storms. Industrial civilization—to which their estranged daughter Ága ran away—is a distant but tangible force, apparently a factor in the thinning reindeer herds, slowly rising temperatures and dying wildlife that etches pain on Nanook’s largely inexpressive face. Slow-paced but majestic, it ends with a timely indictment of “civilization” and the wounds it has inflicted on the Earth. Highly recommended. Editor’s Choice. (C. Cassady)