Before Tomorrow

Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Arnait Video Productions, ISUMA and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu

2008, 92:47 minutes, colour, Inuktitut, w/ English subtitles available


Screenplay by Marie-Hélène Cousineau (in collaboration with Susan Avingaq and Madeline Ivalu), based on For Morgendaggen By Jorn Riel.

Circa 1840. Some Inuit tribes still have never met any white people, although rumours circulate about what they might be, where they come from, and why. Two isolated families meet after many years. It is summer; a happy time to celebrate their reunion. Elders tell stories, young people get married, plans are made for the future, food is abundant. Despite the joyful mood, Ningiuq, an old woman of strength and wisdom, cannot stop worrying. She sees the world around her as fragile, an uneasy dread about something she does not understand. Is it the illness of her best friend, Kutuguk, who is preparing to die? Is her own sense of mortality haunting her? Or is it the strange foreign object that Maniq, her favourite grandson, found on the beach? Reluctant to partake in this timeless happiness, Ningiuq feels the need to reflect on her own uncertain life.

After a successful fishing, the families decide to dry the winter's catch on a remote island, safe from dogs and other animals. Ningiuq volunteers to take on this chore, seizing the occasion for some time alone. Her grandson, Maniq, follows her, as does the old Kutuguk. The destiny of these three unfolds on the island as they wait in vain for the return of the hunters as the cold of fall begins. No one comes. Where are they? Kutuguk' s last hour passes and Ningiuq and Maniq bury her. The wind shifts and a storm sweeps away their camp. When the first snow falls Ningiuq decides to return to the main camp with Maniq to see what happened to the others.

But there are no others. In an incomprehensible nightmare, everyone is dead, their bodies twisted in pain and covered with blisters. Beside their bloated corpses, Ningiuq finds objects known to belong to the white foreigners... a steel needle, a tin cup. Stunned, Ningiuq and Maniq go back to the relative safety of their island. What can they do now? If they are completely alone in this world what is the meaning of survival? Drawing on her deep spirituality and all her survival skills, Ningiuq tries desperately and cheerfully to protect Maniq from the loneliness of being the last human being on earth. One day, in the dark of the winter, she senses her own death coming. What is she to do?

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Critical Writing

Before Tomorrow
by Susan G. Cole. NOW, Mar. 26, 2009, v. 28, no. 30.
Tomorrow hits today: The odds stack up against two unlikely heroes...
by Jason Anderson. EYE WEEKLY, Mar. 26, 2009, v. 18, no. 20.
Chilling Out: Northern Stories are Suddenly Hot
by Susan Cole. NOW, Mar. 26 Spring, 2009, v. 28, no. 30.
Interview: Marie-Hèléne Cousineau: Chilling Out: Nothern stories...
by Susan Cole. NOW, Mar. 26, 2009, v. 28, no. 30.