Review by Dan Skip Allen
I am always interested in new indie films and movies that fly under the radar. You learn about the filmmaker and those involved in these types of movies from how well they make their films. In the case of Polaris, it has some amazing visuals filmed in a setting not that familiar to most audiences and depicting people who aren't focused on in films often — Indigenous people.
This film focuses on a young girl Sumi (Viva Lee), who is raised by a polar bear in the Arctic. When she gets captured by some tribal women (played by Muriel Dutil and Khamisa Wilsher), she uses the North Star to guide her and find her way back to her mother or guardian, if you will. The movie takes place in a dystopian world, so the story may be a bit odd to most viewers. The voyage of trying to get back to one's parent or loved one — in this case, a polar bear — is a universal trope that has been done before.
The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous by David Schulman. He captures the Arctic Circle brilliantly. The white of the snow-covered terrain jumps off the screen. The North Star in all its purple glory is shown brightly and stands out in a wasteland of white-covered hills and mountains. The camera work is impeccable and would stand up beside the best in the industry.
The director Kristen Carshaw is trying to get two things across to viewers in this film. She wants to show a story about a strong young girl who can survive on her own in this vast Arctic wasteland, and she wants to show a story about nurturing youth from multiple points of view. It’s told by the polar bear and the little 10-year-old girl who finds a little friend to take care of on her journey to return home. Using this type of story was fascinating to some extent. It's not the typical way a writer or director would show these plot points, but it worked in this particular film.
Polaris isn't going to blow people's minds, but if you want to watch something different and thought-provoking about nurturing with a twist, this might be the little indie movie for you. I was drawn to this little girl and her journey to get back home. The cinematography was breathtaking, to say the least. It's worth the price of admission.
Polaris screened at the 2023 Make Believe Film Festival, which runs March 23-26 in Seattle, WA.