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małni—towards the ocean, towards the shore

Director: Sky Hopinka

In Sky Hopinka’s melodic feature debut, we follow Sweetwater and Jordan, two expectant young parents—unrelated, but both close to the filmmaker—as each navigates distinct worlds and challenges. Water runs throughout, coating the slick surfaces of leaves, dripping over waterfalls, and lapping along the shore. The ocean is ever present, offering a salient reminder of the cyclical nature of life and death. “Where are we going now?” Hopinka queries at one point in Chinuk Wawa; rhythmic and low, his voiceover guides the film, which is almost entirely in the Chinookan lingua franca born of the Pacific Northwest. In this way, małni builds upon Hopinka’s sustained short-film explorations of home, identity, and most importantly, language. Subtitles toggle between English and Chinuk Wawa, reorienting traditional notions of audience and attesting to the resilience of Indigenous traditions. Deftly employing piecemeal accounts of the origin-of-death myth of Lilu and T’alap’as, Hopinka uses the tale as a clever framing device for contemporary considerations of mortality and growth, reminding us, time and again, that all will eventually return to the ocean.

Dessane Lopez Cassell is the Editor of Reviews at Hyperallergic.