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Northern Light
A film by Nick Bentgen and Lisa Kjerulff
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Set against the backdrop of a town's annual snowmobile race, NORTHERN LIGHT explores the working class experience in a series of captivating personal stories of recession-era America. The lives of three families change profoundly in the north woods of Michigan, where winters are unforgiving, jobs are hard to come by, and the line between living life and simply surviving is razor-thin. This cinematic, observational documentary explores the American working class experience through character-based storytelling. As racers and their families pin their hopes to a 500 mile-long test of endurance, small triumphs and giant sacrifices are made along the way. Dysfunction and hardship permeate the cold, but this harsh setting is simultaneously the site of community and familial intimacy. Filmed over the course of several years spent with the film's protagonists, NORTHERN LIGHT is a fresh and vital contribution to the tradition of contemporary American cinéma vérité.

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“Critics’ Pick! There’s a stillness to the filmmaking, coupled with Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi’s truly lovely original score, that lends specific shots—toddlers bundled up like pastel Ewoks on a snowdrift, or a bakery window glowing like a still life in a gallery—a near-heartbreaking melancholy.” —Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

“Critics’ Pick! A stellar doc of real American beauty. The gorgeous trailer for Northern Light is no preparation for the full-on film. There are a thousand movies out right now, but Northern Light is the one not to miss.” —Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice

“Painterly vistas of snowy expanses are juxtaposed with intimate observance of two working-class families in the build-up to an annual 500-mile endurance race.” —Steve Dollar, The Wall Street Journal

“9/10 Stars! As you contemplate this stunning, lyrical, transporting film, you can see, that the road ahead may be different.” —Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters

"A humble and quietly thoughtful piece of cinéma vérité." —Kelly O, The Stranger

"I'll not soon forget the durational brilliance of an extended fixed shot of a snow-suited timekeeper on a frozen lake patiently waiting as a snowmobile zips into and out of view, its roar slowly fading into the wintry quiet and then reviving before the vehicle comes speeding through the frame again, as tedious and entrancing as a clock." —Eric Hynes, Cinema Scope

"While the snowmobile race at the center of the film is dramatic and engrossing, encompassing an entire film within itself, it's the small, quiet glimpses that pull the viewer in, casting a compassionate eye on lives on the margins. But everybody struggles, and on a fundamental level NORTHERN LIGHT is a film we can all relate to." —Craig Hubert, ArtInfo

"Told in short, stolen snippets, it's one beautiful image after another, showing its Michigan subjects trying to win at various competitions. Ups and downs are captured [and] people just keepin' on keepin' on." —Matt Prigge, Metro

"A visually sumptuous and stirring observation piece that generates a similar small town despondence surrounding an annual snowmobile race in a northern Michigan community feeling the effects of the economic depression." —Robert Bell, Exclaim

"Patient, observant, and deeply generous." —Michael Tully, Hammer to Nail

“A mosaic of moments among parents and children, life partners and friends, all rendered with lucent beauty by cinematographer Bentgen, making his directorial debut. An elegantly assembled work that gathers slowly.” —Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment

Winner, Most Innovative Feature, 2013 Visions du Réel, Switzerland
Winner, Best Cinematography, 2013 New Orleans Film Festival, Louisiana
2013 Viennale International Film Festival, Austria
2013 True/False Film Festival, Missouri
2013 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, Canada
2013 American Film Festival, Poland
2013 BAMcinemaFest, New York
  

105 minutes / color
Closed Captioned
Release: 2014
Copyright: 2013
DVD Sale: $24.98

This DVD is sold above for home video use only. If you require a license for institutional use or Public Performance rights, click here.





Subject areas:
American Studies, Cinema Studies, Closed Captioned, Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Economic Sociology, Family Relations, Sociology, US & Canadian Broadcast Rights

Related Links:
View a PDF of the Film's Press Kit


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Kati With an I: In three tumultuous days, the future of one Alabama high school senior is cast into doubt.

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