'The Grizzlies' Talks About a Tragedy You've Never Heard of Before

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Posted: Sep 18, 2020 5:00 PM
'The Grizzlies' Talks About a Tragedy You've Never Heard of Before

Source: Screenshot via YouTube/Elevation Pictures

Sure, "The Grizzlies" won't take home any hardware from next year's Golden Globes or Oscars, as the acting leaves much to be desired. But the film, from Elevation Pictures, does shed light on an issue I'd never heard before, and I'm sure it's one most audiences haven't, either. 

"The Grizzlies" centers on a group of Eskimo students in a small Canadian town called Kugluktuk, known as "the edge of the world." It has the highest suicide rate in all of North America, and many depressed young adults in the community have turned to alcohol and drugs. 

Then arrives Russ Sheppard (Ben Schnetzer), a teacher with a one-year contract at the local school, and he decides to start a lacrosse team to try and give these kids some hope. It turns out they're pretty good, and their demeanors brighten as they realize they have a chance to be champions. 

So sure, we've seen this uplifting sports storyline play out before. But never in this context. Suicide among Inuit has been a consistent tragedy in the Eastern Arctic. In 2004, the five-year average was 121 per 100,000 people, nearly 11 times the national rate. Suicide in Nunavut has started to decrease slightly every year since 2014, thanks in large part to greater funding for and emphasis on mental health and community engagement.

So, perhaps don't watch the film to see Oscar worthy performances from the cast of Hollywood newbies, but to learn. And the film does a fair job of generating empathy for this largely unknown population.

"The Grizzlies" was directed by Miranda de Pencier, executive produced by Academy Award nominee Frank Marshall and Jake Steinfield, and stars Ben Schnetzer, Booboo Stewart, Tantoo Cardinal, Emerald MacDonald, and Will Sasso.