If 2014 has been the winter that dragged on forever, be glad you’re
not a Finnish reindeer herder. Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys
follows brothers Aarne and Lasse Aatsinki for a year through Finnish Lapland,
and they appear maybe twice outdoors without hats.
There’s something simultaneously grisly and beautiful in their work.
The brothers and other herders are shown herding (natch), as well as counting,
dressing the animals, skinning them and looking after their health. It’s clear
that there’s a healthy respect for the animals too, even if the end result is
that some reindeer end up on a conveyer belt.
The most compelling aspect of Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic
Cowboys isn’t the day-in-day-out repetition of the work, but in director
Jessica Oreck’s completely detached presentation. There is no voiceover. The
Aatsinkis don’t talk to the camera operators. Still, Oreck captures an intimacy
that makes clear the hard labor, the simple (and limited, timewise) joys of
downtime and the fact that the work seems to be disappearing. The sleigh rides
for tourists hints at the world beyond herding.
The uninflected images become a sort of guided meditation through a
life completely foreign to most people. It’s a guided meditation worth taking.
AATSINKI: THE STORY OF ARCTIC COWBOYS
by Jessica Oreck
Santa Fe Reporter
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