The Film Never Cry Wolf Essay

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Carroll Ballard’s 1983 film Never Cry Wolf reveals a complex web of relationships between traditional cultures like the Inuit and the urban denizens of what is ironically the same country. Similarly, the film explores the great divides between humans and other animals who cohabit the earth. The great divides between human beings are ultimately revealed to be even more nuanced and difficult to resolve than those that exist between different species. In the film, Tyler learns how to bridge some of the chasms between his post-industrial Canadian mentality and the traditional knowledge embodied by Ootek. Tyler also narrows the great divides between wolves and people, as he learns how to communicate with wolves on their own terms. The most complicated character in Never Cry Wolf is Mike. Mike is bicultural, speaking both the Inuit language and English. He is also caught between worlds: the world of his elders and traditional ecological knowledge, and the modern world of men like Tyler.

Interestingly, it is Mike who exploits the natural resources of his native land, killing the wolves for his own personal financial gain. Yet Mike would not have needed to kill George and Angeline if the Inuit people had the same access to affordable healthcare as Tyler does. The gap between rich and poor, between the socially privileged and the socially disadvantaged, is also explored in the film. Tyler can more readily forgive Mike for his ethical transgression than he could have to Rosie, who he believes killed the wolves.

The fact that Tyler retains a deep respect for Inuit culture and withholds judgment on Mike shows that he has made great strides in bridging the great cultural divides between rural and urban, traditional and modern, poor and rich, indigenous and settler. It would have been easy for Tyler to criticize Mike based on his cultural values and social norms. However, Tyler also likely would have not learned as much about the wolves were it not for Mike and Ootek. Tyler also does not have the self-righteous attitude that he might have if he were a different person. In fact, Tyler capitalizes on TEK for his academic research. The gap between TEK and academic knowledge may not be as wide as the audience had suspected before watching the film.

Likewise, the gap between wolves and people is also not as great as….....

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Ballard, C. (1983). Never Cry Wolf. [Feature Film]

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