TIFF 2017: Luk’Luk’I

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Wayne Wapeemukwa’s feature debut Luk’Luk’I exists in a bizarre space halfway between documentary and fairy tale. It features vignettes of five “characters” during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. They all live on the outskirts, and their lives are only tangentially related to each other. Their stories range from the grim and realistic to the outlandish and supernatural. Overall, the film may not be greater than the sum of its parts, but it certainly manages to offer some unique surprises.

As a collection of vignettes, it is inevitable that some will be stronger than others, but there is also a wide range of tones. Some are sadder, some more light-hearted, but all have at least some seriousness to them. Mostly, the themes focus on the struggles of the poor and downtrodden.

The style of the cinematography wanders around too. Sometimes, it is almost like the characters are being interviewed (thus lending the film its documentary feel). Similarly, the camera will sometimes follow a character through a scene, or stay focused on a face through a long dolly-like shot (it’s probably a steady cam or GoPro, though).

Though the stories are shot like a documentary, they aren’t told like one. The drama unfolds fairly predictably once you begin to understand the relationships between the characters. Of course, there are some insane surprises that really stretch the realism of the film. Whether or not this discordant style of storytelling works for you will go a long way towards determining your appreciation of Luk’Luk’I.

As a whole piece, it feels like Luk’Luk’I has better individual parts than whatever whole they add up to. The concept of uniting different stories into some overarching theme is a well-established storytelling device, but it just rings a little hollow here, not extended any further than a worn-out look into economic struggles.