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Produced by Derek Mazur, Joan Scott and Seaton McLean; directed by Michael Scott

Sunday Night Productions and Muddy River Films, 1990. VHS cassette, 92:00 min., $195.00
Distribution by Magic Lantern Film Distributors, Unit #38,775 Pacific Rd., Oakville, Ont. L6L 6M4

Grades 6 to 10/Ages 11 to 15
Reviewed by Allison Haupt

Volume 20 Number 1
1992 January

There are several reasons a library or school might be interested in purchasing this video, and the familiarity and endurance of Parley Mowat's novel, published in 1956,'Will have a great deal to do with its selection. Lost in the Barrens takes full advantage of the beauty of the wilderness to tell this story of survival in the Canadian north, but the producers have chosen to rewrite many of the details of Mowat's story.

The film is fast paced, beautiful to watch, and exciting. Conflicts between Jamie and his uncle, Jamie and Awasin, the Cree and the Inuit, and whites and natives are added to Mowat's story to heighten tension and suspense. Hints of Awasin's abuse while at "white" school, that the Inuit are cannibals, that the boys' survival is dependent upon replacing white values with native values make the film more contempo­rary or interesting but ultimately detract from the primary conflict of two boys against the arctic wilderness. Cone are Mowat's subplots involving the Chipeweyans, and Peetyuk, their Inuit rescuer. The only female character in the film is Lenore, Uncle Angus's Cree woman. "You're not going to marry her, are you? She's Indian."

The cinematic potential of the great caribou migration and the caribou fawn and the sled dogs that adopt the boys in the novel are replaced with a far simpler and bleaker existence in the film. The boys' very successful hunting with a rifle and storage of food in the novel is replaced in the film with near starvation, hunting only with a knife and snares, and one sequence in which a caribou offers itself to be killed, thereby ensur­ing their survival. The focus throughout the film is on internal struggle and conflict: Jamie's initial resentment and dislike of the north and its people; Awasin's struggle with being an Indian, and becoming a man.

Those familiar with the book or who read the book afterwards might be left puzzling over the necessity of the myriad of changes. Comparison between the novel and the film might not be relevant to you, or it might provide an invaluable opportunity for evaluation and comparison. It is one of those rare classic Canadian stories kids should know, and the movie will appeal to students between eleven and fifteen. I personally would really like to know what Parley Mowat thinks of it.

Allison Haupt, North Vancouver District Public Library, North Vancouver, B.C.
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