VIFF 2022: Ever Deadly

Directed by: Chelsea McMullan Tanya Tagaq
Distributed by: TBD

Written by Alexander Reams


“Ever Deadly” opens with a 7-minute throat singing sequence. It’s simultaneously intense and empyreal, there is an otherworldly aspect to the singing. I’d go even further and say the film encapsulates its 90-minute runtime in those opening seven. A feat for a lot of directors, but a curse for directors Chelsea McMullan and Tanya Tagaq, who are also in the documentary. McMullan one of the leading experimental documentarians, and Tagaq, an accomplished Inuk throat singer, co-direct what is ultimately an uneven and dull documentary. 

McMullan is seasoned in her filmmaking career and has directed  “My Prairie Home” and “Michael Shannon Michael Shannon: John” each an accomplishment in their own right, each telling their stories in unique ways that have shown her talent for documentary filmmaking. This is Tagaq’s debut as a director and it shows through her juvenile stylistic choices such as the cutting between landscapes and concert footage in a strobe light effect, which can be harrowing to watch. The closest the directors come to a narrative is in those opening seven minutes, showing threads of the story through the throat singing and landscape portraits in Malick-esque form. The opening sequence is then unraveled over the next 83 minutes with a combination of concert footage, subplots about seal hunting, bizarre interviews, and landscape portraits, all to the tune of Tagaq’s music and an invasive electronic score, but it’s never clear what she is trying to say. Mixing concert footage with interviews, landscape portraits, and brief stints of hand-drawn animation is a stylistically interesting choice. But it compromises the narrative due to the uneven style of editing breaking up the threads that were established during the interviews. Tagaq’s history as an artist is picked up at random points and then pushed aside in favor of stylistically intriguing visuals, a pattern that we see happen continually throughout the film. At the heart of “Ever Deadly” is Tagaq’s story, but it is told in such a convoluted way that you can only take away the images on screen, the flashes at the concert are exciting to the eye but not stimulating the brain nor the heart, there is nothing deeper than flash and show.

“Ever Deadly” Trailer

“Ever Deadly” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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