Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  105 minutes
Date:  2014
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Grade level: 8-12, COLLEGE, ADULT
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
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This title is included in the following collections: The Icarus Films Collection, The Docuseek2 Complete Collection 2nd Edition
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Northern Light

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A beautiful and candid portrait of the American working class experience set against the backdrop of a town's snowmobile race.

Northern Light

Set against the backdrop of a town's annual snowmobile race, NORTHERN LIGHT explores the working class experience in a series of captivating personal stories of recession-era America. The lives of three families change profoundly in the north woods of Michigan, where winters are unforgiving, jobs are hard to come by, and the line between living life and simply surviving is razor-thin. This cinematic, observational documentary explores the American working class experience through character-based storytelling. As racers and their families pin their hopes to a 500 mile-long test of endurance, small triumphs and giant sacrifices are made along the way. Dysfunction and hardship permeate the cold, but this harsh setting is simultaneously the site of community and familial intimacy. Filmed over the course of several years spent with the film's protagonists, NORTHERN LIGHT is a fresh and vital contribution to the tradition of contemporary American cinema verite .

'Critics' Pick! There's a stillness to the filmmaking, coupled with Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi's truly lovely original score, that lends specific shots-toddlers bundled up like pastel Ewoks on a snowdrift, or a bakery window glowing like a still life in a gallery-a near-heartbreaking melancholy.' -Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

'Critics' Pick! A stellar doc of real American beauty. The gorgeous trailer for Northern Light is no preparation for the full-on film. There are a thousand movies out right now, but Northern Light is the one not to miss.' -Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice

'Painterly vistas of snowy expanses are juxtaposed with intimate observance of two working-class families in the build-up to an annual 500-mile endurance race.' -Steve Dollar, The Wall Street Journal

'9/10 Stars! As you contemplate this stunning, lyrical, transporting film, you can see, that the road ahead may be different.' -Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters

'A humble and quietly thoughtful piece of cinema verite.' -Kelly O, The Stranger

'I'll not soon forget the durational brilliance of an extended fixed shot of a snow-suited timekeeper on a frozen lake patiently waiting as a snowmobile zips into and out of view, its roar slowly fading into the wintry quiet and then reviving before the vehicle comes speeding through the frame again, as tedious and entrancing as a clock.' -Eric Hynes, Cinema Scope

'While the snowmobile race at the center of the film is dramatic and engrossing, encompassing an entire film within itself, it's the small, quiet glimpses that pull the viewer in, casting a compassionate eye on lives on the margins. But everybody struggles, and on a fundamental level NORTHERN LIGHT is a film we can all relate to.' -Craig Hubert, ArtInfo

'Told in short, stolen snippets, it's one beautiful image after another, showing its Michigan subjects trying to win at various competitions. Ups and downs are captured [and] people just keepin' on keepin' on.' -Matt Prigge, Metro

'A visually sumptuous and stirring observation piece that generates a similar small town despondence surrounding an annual snowmobile race in a northern Michigan community feeling the effects of the economic depression.' -Robert Bell, Exclaim

'Patient, observant, and deeply generous.' -Michael Tully, Hammer to Nail

'A mosaic of moments among parents and children, life partners and friends, all rendered with lucent beauty by cinematographer Bentgen, making his directorial debut. An elegantly assembled work that gathers slowly.' -Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment


** Winner, Most Innovative Feature, 2013 Visions du Reel, Switzerland
** Winner, Best Cinematography, 2013 New Orleans Film Festival, Louisiana
** 2013 Viennale International Film Festival, Austria
** 2013 True/False Film Festival, Missouri
** 2013 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, Canada
** 2013 American Film Festival, Poland
** 2013 BAMcinemaFest, New York


Main credits

Bentgen, Nick (film director)
Bentgen, Nick (cinematographer)
Kjerulff, Lisa (film producer)

Other credits

Editor, Yoohna Park; music, Saunder Jurriaans & Danny Bensi.

Distributor credits

A film by Nick Bentgen and Lisa Kjerulff

Docuseek2 subjects

American Studies
Film and Video Studies
Documentary Films
Cultural Anthropology
Cultural and Ethnic Studies
Economic Anthropology
Family Issues
The Industrial Heartland

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Cinema Studies
Closed Captioned
Cultural Anthropology
Cultural Studies
Economic Sociology
Family Relations
US and Canadian Broadcast Rights


northern light,; nothern, light, nick bentgen, lisa kjerulff, america, small town, snowmobile, snow, michigan, cinema verite, cinematography, family, community; "Northern Light"; Icarus Films

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