“The populations, such as the Caribou Inuits or about

“The Snow
Walker” is a
survival drama movie. Written and directed by Charles Martin Smith, adaptation
one of the Farley McGill Mowat short stories “Walk Well, My
Brother”. The film
tells a character-driven story and breaking down the walls of prejudice between
cultures and religions. “The Snow Walker” was nominated for several awards,
including Best Motion Picture, won six Leo Awards and the Best
Screenplay Adaptation by Charles Martin Smith. Barry Pepper and Annabella Piugattuk won the Best Lead
Male and Woman Performance.

Farley McGill Mowat (1921-2014) Canadian writer,
naturalist, conservationist, an environmental advocate was born in Belleville,
Ontario. He is an internationally acclaimed novelist, the author of many books
which have been translated into several languages. Wrote about isolated native populations,
such as the Caribou Inuits or about animal life, especially threatened species.
His creation includes “Lost in the Barrens”, a winner of Canada’s
Governor General’s Award, “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float”, “People
of the Deer”, “The Snow Walker”, “A Whale for the
Killing”, “The Passion of Dian Fossy” and etc.

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“Never Cry Wolf” is Mowat’s most widely
known book, an autobiographical story about the study of Arctic wolves and his
solo mission adventures as a biologist in the Keewatin Barren Lands in northern
Manitoba. The book is credited with changing the stereotypically negative
perception of wolves as vicious killers. Mowat wrote: “We have doomed the
wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive
it to be the mythological epitome of a savage, ruthless killer.”

As an actor, Charles Martin Smith played the main role
in Never Cry Wolf.  He had been affected
by involvement in making that film and decided to adopt another book of Farley
Mowat, The Snow Walker, by the man, he once depicted with. He chose “Walk
Well, My Brother” the short story. The reason for choosing was the
simplicity of the story, putting two different people against the elements of
the Northwest Territories. Screenplay contains some elements from “The
Blood in their Veins” and other Farley Mowat’s stories. Later he
re-released The Snow Walker. An anthology of short stories which included
“Walk Well, My Brother” and preface has been featured by Smith.

“Walk Well, My Brother” is about of two
different cultures that forcibly come together in order to remain alive in the
frozen tundra. The short story illustrates how a person can get to know from
another person who is entirely different from them and be changed by their
arrogance and making him a good person. With a minimum of dialogue, it also
tells us the importance of not being prejudicial toward another people, culture
and religion and sends out a major message.

The main protagonist is the Charlie Lavery. He works
as a Pilot in the Yukon Territory, when the story starts. He served as a
Military bomber pilot during the war and counted on his capability of looking
after himself no matter what the circumstances. He is relying on technology. As
the author says, “he was very much of the new elite that believed that any
challenge could be dealt with by good machines in the hands of skilled
men”. Charles wasn’t familiar with the Arctic and the people that lived
there. He thought that he did not need this wisdom as long as he had his
reliability to machines. It was this ignorance made him feel revulsion them who
lived there because he was not acquainted with native’s way of life. When his
trustworthy machines were no longer of use, he had no experience to fall back
upon and entirely dependent on a first nation woman Konola to whom he felt deep
repugnance at first sight. His lack of ability care of himself made him to
co-operate and to try to get well this person who was so foreign to him.
Charlie behaves toward Konala with constant lack of courtesy over the journey.

The secondary protagonist is Konala. She is very sick
with tuberculosis. Her husband sent her to a hospital with Charlie to
Yellowknife. As a first nation woman, she shows respect and loyalty him over
the story, even when Charlie is mistreating her. As a native person she has
huge experience of how to remain alive in the wilderness and like Charlie, she
hasn’t had any dependence on technology. Konala values everything Charlie does
but he does not appreciate her at all. 
He prefers to eat beans from a can instead of taking a nice cooked fish
from her in order to demonstrate that he can manage things on his own. The
conflict finds a solution almost at the end of the story when Konala comes to
the aid of him, worn out in the fields and he gains her as a friend.

Charlie is angry, thinks only of himself, a resentful
individual who is self-absorbed. Furthermore, he is racist and sexist towards
Konala, due to her skin colour, because she is a woman and how she does things
differently in order to stay alive in the outdoors. After the plane crashes he
blames her for every single thing that goes not well. He humiliates Konala by
calling her ” a bloody albatross around his neck” and “eat it
yourself,  you animal” when she
offers him a food. Despite he had left her to die she still goes after him
throughout the Arctic in order to save him. Charlie gradually starts to show
respect this woman and he begins to realize that he was wrong. In the story
Charlie is asking himself; “Why had Konola not stayed in the relative
safety of the aircraft or else travelled north to seek her own people? What had
impelled her… to rescue a man of another race who had abandoned her?” It
illustrates how Charles still feels discrimination toward her and reason is her
race. He cannot imagine how she would follow a man of “another race”.
For Konola it is not as important and that is why she feels bounded to save his
life. Charlie is very touched by her kindness. She looked after him and treated
him back to health even though she herself wasn’t well. This astonished Charles
and altered him from a selfish person to a more caring one. It changed his view
of the local people and on how he behaved toward others. At the end of the
story, Konola becomes too ill and weak to care for herself. He starts to look
after her which give us evidence about his alteration because of their
condition and for everything she has done for him.

The turning point of the story happens when they meet
the bear, first vicious animal they have faced. Knowing they didn’t work well
together earlier and it’s the main test for Charlie to see how he has finally
matured enough to respect, to help Konala out.

The main symbol of the short story is Konala’s boots
which she was using. Knowing she is reaching her end, Konala gives the boots
she has been fine walking in over their journey to Charlie and leaves him with
the words “Walk Well, My Brother”. They have bonded with one another
like brother and sister.

American by birth, C.M.Smith moved to live in Vancouver,
before making the “The Snow Walker”. His most notable roles as an
actor are “Toady” in George Lucas’s “American Graffiti” and
the “ill-fated accountant Oscar Wallace” in Brian De Palma’s
“The Untouchables”. Directing career has brought him the worldwide
acclaim. The film “Air Bud” which he directed won the Golden Reel
Award.  Made it one of the top grossed
film ever made in Canada.

In the film, Canadian actors played leading roles. Smith
was impressed by Barry Pepper’s performance as a baseball player “Roger
Maris” in the television movie “61” and invited him to the
primary role as Charlie Halliday. Like his hero in the film, Pepper has a
strong sense of adventure. When he was a child, his family sailed five years in
the waters of the South Pacific. “It takes a lot of courage,” he
says, “for a mother and father of three little boys to build a 50-foot
sailboat and say, “We are going to sail halfway around the world by
celestial navigation, the same way Columbus did. And we are going to teach you
about life. ” A kind of Robinson Crusoe meets National Geographic.”

“Saving Private Ryan”, Pepper played
”Bible-quoting sniper”, was a life-changing film for him and continued
working with Tom Hanks in “The Green Mile”. Pepper performed in big
Hollywood production like Seven Pounds, Enemy of the State, We Were Soldiers
and etc.

Pepper says about the movie that “what developed
was a collective collaborative family, something he’d never experienced before
on a set. People would really go the extra mile to try and find the perfect
prop, like the pocketknife that is the only one that my character would carry.
They didn’t just go out into the back of their truck and find you some piece of
junk they used in another film. They’d really put some love into it because
they cared about you as a person”

The most challenging part was finding the female
co-star. He has been advised to use Asian actress as the main protagonist.
Smith was looking for a young woman who could speak Inuktitut and had knowledge
of traditional ways to act Kanaalaq. 
Flyers have been posted and advertisements took out in local newspapers
throughout the northern communities. “I was confident that we could find
somebody,” Smith recalls. “but the difficulty was that they, the
Inuit, are, generally speaking, a reticent people. I knew that if we were to go
up there and contact the people in the villages in the Far North and say ‘We
are looking for an actor,’ no one would respond because they don’t answer those
ads.” It took six months until casting director met her at the local dance
club and elected after reviewed thousands of young Inuit girls. Most of them
were non-actors like Piugattuk. She has been chosen for her bilingual language
knowledge in her native language and English. Hunting ability and survival
techniques brought believability to her role.

Several Inuit people have been recruited as extras and
the John Houston, co-producer of the movie, is one of the Inuit people and grew
up in a native village.

“The Snow Walker” was filmed in northern Canadian
lands, with breathtaking wildlife, sparse wilderness, and crystal clear lakes.
Sometimes those places were dangerous. Director had to shut down the shooting
for a day due to the storm of the gigantic horseflies, called
“bulldogs,” and the infamous northern mosquitoes because could not
film. Tundra scenes made in Churchill, Manitoba, caribou hunt in Merritt,
British Columbia, aeroplane crash and other scenes in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut and
Thompson-Nicola Regional District, British Columbia. Winter scenes were filmed
in -28 C with wind chills going down to -45 C was part of it. “There were
days it was so excruciatingly cold that you thought that your ears were
literally going to crack off the side of your head,” Pepper recalls.
“When I came home all the skin peeled off my ears like they had been sunburned.
It came off like a lizard’s skin, and they said it was from the
frostbite.” 

The score of the movie is composed by Michael Danna
and Paul Intson. Elements of ethnic Inuit instruments and music been placed by
two composers into this themes, including the Native American flute Sonoran,
percussion and throat singing. We can feel Inuit special flute sound in all
over “Kanaalaq’s Touch”. Symphonic underscoring nicely blends in with
the incorporated elements of exotic additions which emphases the Canadian rich
wilderness where Charlie meets with the tribal savagery of
“Mosquito”, “Caribou Hunt” and “Charlie in the
Wilderness” which plays without dialogue in the film.

“The Snow Walker ” is a tale of adventure and survival. A story about how the main characters
are going to survive in Northern Territories of Canada after a plane crash. Set
in the 1950s, it features an arrogant white pilot, Charlie Halliday, who was
bribed with walrus tusks into taking a sick Inuit girl to a big city hospital.
He is an ignorant racist. At the opening scene of the movie, we can see how he
scoffed at being called “Brother” by an Inuit. He is sexist and fancy
of himself as a man’s man. We get the sense that his “girl in every port”
lifestyle is driven by a “you only live once” attitude. But things change in a
crisis.

Problem
with an aircraft engine, force Charlie to make a crash landing only yards from
the shore of a lake. Luckily both of them unharmed during the crash. The radio
is broken, crash place unknown to others as he made a deviation from the original route. He sees this mysterious
native woman as savage whose present is a heavy burden for him. Furthermore,
they cannot speak each other’s language. Kanaalaq knows a little bit of English
whilst Charlie is not familiar with Inuktitut. Also, he has a penchant for
screaming at inanimate objects, his angry tirade against his own plane and to
the radio when he can’t fix it.

Charlie
thinks he can survive on his own in the wilderness. Leaving her alone behind in
the crash scene promising that will return soon with help and foolishly decides
to go on foot long way alone. But quickly discovers that he’ll have to rely on
the Inuit girl’s knowledge and skills if he is to survive the mosquitoes, the
swamps, and the snow without dying of exposure or starvation.

When
he is awakened by swarms of gigantic horseflies and mosquitoes which make him
seek safety in flight over jagged rocks till falling down and become
unconscious. It is Inuit woman’s patient care healed him, nursed his wounds and
bites with herbs.

Only
after all this, he bothers to ask her name. He starts to communicate with this
native woman in a sense he has never done with anyone. By the time he realized
that how she is glorious inside and respects her as a little sister. He comes to
appreciates her, this Inuit girl’s gift. Charlie grows as a mature person we
are watching a transformation happens in his character as he learns not only
how to survive, but how to love.

This
love built on self-sacrifice and total self-gift. It is a love that Kanaalaq
almost innately possesses, as she selflessly and wordlessly feeds, clothes, and
heals her companion, no questions asked. Later in the film, these qualities
come to the fore as she shares the story of how her mother left her starving
family so that her children could have her share of food and how she herself bit
her own wrist to let her dying sister drink her blood. Kanaalaq laughs as she
tells this last bit, marvelling at how she “tricked” Tarqeq, the moon god, by
saving her sister’s life. 1

When
Charlie and Kanaalaq find a wrecked plane containing a partly burn corpse but
also a trove of tools and weapons, he does not understand, at first, why
Kanaalaq refuses to go near any of the dead man’s belongings.  Instead, she builds a funeral cairn for the
body and buries his tools with him. 
Later Charlie begins to see that people and objects have more
meaning.  Kanaalaq’s self-giving love
extends even to the dead. She is willing to sacrifice a chance for survival to
ensure that the unfamiliar dead man will be safe in the afterlife. 

When
everyone presumes that Charlie is dead and his boss holds a funeral service for
him. We hear a mourning speech, the loss of a life cut short in its prime of
life.  We can see that this speech is not
for Charlie. It is for Kanaalaq and the words become a voice-over for scenes of
the dying girl coughing up blood and being carried by Charlie across the
snow. 

It is
clear that contact with Kanaalaq incredibly altered Charlie. Kanaalaq’s patient
love gives him the chance, be able to break out of his selfishness and learn
how to love. The fundamental fact of his changes is when he willingly leaves
his ivory tusks into her empty funeral grave. The price was paid by Kanaalaq’s
family to Charlie as safe passage to bid city’s hospital in order to save her
life.

The
grave is empty because Kanaalaq like her mother leaves Charlie at the
midnight.  She does not want to be a
burden to him. His journey through the deepening winter might be easier without
caring of a dying woman.  Charlie feels a
great grief for Kanaalaq. He got another lesson from her,  not only how to love, but how to let himself
be loved. 

In
the opening scenes of the film, Charlie is celebrating his birthday.  His girlfriend tries to give him a gift,
which he postpones opening because he is eager for sex.  We never do find out what was in the gift.
Charlie is called away to work before he could open it. He departs on his
fateful voyage without saying goodbye to his girlfriend. When Charlie is
believed to be dead, we watch as his room is cleaned out and the unopened gift
swept into a cardboard box.

1 St. Gregory of
Nyssa’s ransom theory of atonement, which holds that Jesus’ death “tricked” the
devil and won life for the rest of mankind