Greenland is a massive island country that very few people can call home. While not entirely immune to the tides of globalisation, it remains, in many ways, a land apart from the rest of the world. Its economy is still centred on fishing and hunting, and very few foreigners seek to settle there or make it their tourist escape. This is especially true in the small town of Uummannaq, on an island off the central-western coast of Greenland, some 600 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle.
It’s these facts that make the unlikely life of Pierre Auzias so fascinating. Although French by birth, he’s lived in Uummannaq for 14 years – first with his partner Annie, and then alone, after her recent retirement as the town doctor and return to France. An artist by trade, Auzias served as the official maritime painter of the Royal Danish Navy during 1994-2016, and has established himself as a vital part of the community by creating a local art school. He also speaks Kalaallisut, has learned to fish and hunt, travels by dogsled, and has even developed a taste for whale and seal. However, his life in Uummannaq is now very much in flux as he waits to hear if the authorities will allow him to remain. With his residency status in doubt, he worries about losing the routines, friends and way of life he’s come to cherish, and is especially troubled by the uncertain fate of his beloved sled dogs.
With no shortage of cinematic shots of his subject set against the snow, rocks and waters of the sprawling Greenland landscape, the UK director Nicholas Jones builds a captivating portrait of Auzias and his life in Uummannaq in A Greenlander. The film – and often Auzias himself – ponder what it means to feel as if home is somewhere far from where you came from, and if it’s ever possible to fully integrate with another culture. In the background lingers the question of whether the Greenlander way of life, which has completely seduced Auzias, will be able to endure in a world, and global climate, that’s rapidly changing around it.
Written by Adam D’Arpino
Director: Nicholas Jones