Ikland: Film Review

The world's most evil people don't live up to their rep in Uganda doc.

Cevin Soling and David Hilbert's doc focuses on Uganda's Ik tribe, who have a reputation as the world's most evil people, without compassion even for their own children.

An odd travelogue in which an amateur ethnographer sets out to correct a pro's errors, Cevin Soling and David Hilbert's Ikland benefits from ample one-on-one time with its subjects but might be of most interest to anthropology students, many of whom will wish for a more methodical approach.
 
Writer-filmmaker Soling read something in seventh grade he could hardly believe: a 1972 report by anthropologist Colin Turnbull that described Uganda's Ik tribe as a wholly evil people, without compassion even for their own children. It's hard to believe people ever took this account seriously, but decades later, Soling felt he had to prove Turnbull wrong.
 
Getting to the Iks' remote territory provided some drama -- thorny terrain and fierce beasts stalked the land where roving soldiers have Idi Amin's sadistic legacy to live up to. The film understandably makes the most of this journey, since what Soling's team eventually finds is simply a tribe of people who have seen more than their share of famine and war.
 
Ample interviews with individual Iks suggest explanations for Turnbull's libel: We hear how they and the neighboring Turkana tribe get along like brothers when disease and drought aren't pitting them against each other but turn bloodthirsty when desperate. Any other insights Soling might claim are, even more than Turnbull's, based on a too-short encounter and clouded by the observer's personal agenda. In particular, Soling's interest in having locals enact a pidgin version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, while interesting to see, is a strange contrivance that's meant to bridge cultural difference but eats too much time out of an encounter that was risky and expensive to arrange.
 
Opens: Friday, June 15 (Spectacle Films)
Production Company: Spectacle Films
Directors-Producers: Cevin Soling, David Hilbert
Director of photography: David Pluth
Music: Sacha Lucashenko
Editor: David Hilbert
No rating, 88 minutes.

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