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Trial at Fortitude Bay

Davidovich and Czerny are Canadian lawyers sent to a remote village on Baffin Island in the Northwest Territories for a sexual-assault case. She's the ambitious defense attorney, Gina Antonelli; he's the smooth, arrogant prosecutor , Daniel Metz, and the trial reps a rematch for them. Third outsider flying into Fortitude Bay is court interpreter Simon (Raoul Trujillo), an Inuk returning to his community after 15 years. His intermediary role in the trial perfectly encapsulates his sense of not belonging: At the same time he is ostracized by his former neighbors for being a "Southerner," Simon grows increasingly disillusioned with the expediencies of the legal system.

With:
Cast: Lolita Davidovich, Henry Czerny, Raoul Trujillo, Marcel Sabourin, Robert Ito, Paul Gordon, Dave Brown, Rose Machmer, Tanya Enook, Leetia Riddell, Peter Williamson, Jukeepa Nauyuk, Kanayak Salominie, Natar Ungalaq, Barbara Gordon, Rick McNair, Nancy Drake, James Nicholson, Tracey McCorrister, Paul Stynyk, Paula Kazakewich, Joshua Kango, Gary Phillip. Fine acting and an unusual setting make "Trial at Fortitude Bay" an engrossing examination of culture clash in the courtroom. Topliners Lolita Davidovich and Henry Czerny should draw viewers to the telepic, which was made for Canadian television in 1994 and preems in the U.S. on Lifetime; "Trial's" subtlety and genuineness will keep audiences tuned in.

Davidovich and Czerny are Canadian lawyers sent to a remote village on Baffin Island in the Northwest Territories for a sexual-assault case. She’s the ambitious defense attorney, Gina Antonelli; he’s the smooth, arrogant prosecutor , Daniel Metz, and the trial reps a rematch for them. Third outsider flying into Fortitude Bay is court interpreter Simon (Raoul Trujillo), an Inuk returning to his community after 15 years. His intermediary role in the trial perfectly encapsulates his sense of not belonging: At the same time he is ostracized by his former neighbors for being a “Southerner,” Simon grows increasingly disillusioned with the expediencies of the legal system.

TX: TX:Filmed in Winnipeg , Manitoba, and Iqaluit, Northwest Territories, Canada, by Imagex Ltd., Magit Nance Prods. Inc. and Credo Entertainment Corp. for Atlantis Films Ltd., in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Executive producers, Bill Gray, Derek Mazur, Christopher Zimmer; producers, Margit Nance, Michael Scott; executives in charge of production (CBC), Jim Burt, Pat Schofield; director, Vic Sarin; writer, Keith Ross Leckie; Antonelli, meanwhile, is thrust immediately into the Inuit culture when, in order to brief her client, Paloosie (Paul Gordon), she must track him down on the ice, where he’s hunting. Just as quickly, she locks horns with Paloosie’s teacher, Methusala (Robert Ito), a village elder, and learns that the Inuit expression for “lawyer” means “the white man who will lie for you.” Methusala offers a softer interpretation by story’s end.

Court is set up in the school gymnasium, a portrait of Queen Elizabeth goes up on an easel beneath the backboard, and the trial begins. For the community, the tribunal is an opportunity not to mount an effective defense or prosecution, but to speak the truth, and its goal is not punishment but the restoration of harmony. On the other side of the cultural divide, both attorneys need to win, Metz in order to sat-isfy Ottawa’s mandate for “zero tolerance”– and he’s well aware that Judge Lamberts (Marcel Sabourin) already has been reprimanded for his “alternative” sentencing, which honors the values of the indigenous culture. Outcome may be foreseeable, but story takes intriguing twists getting there.

TX:Davidovich and Czerny are convincing as the career-trackers whose brand of “justice” is as out of place in the hunting community as their big-city threads. Their professional rivalry and flirtatious badinage are mostly believable, but more crucial is the way they manage to suggest layers of characterization that are not in the script.

Trujillo delivers a poignant turn as the lost man, caught between two worlds. Gordon, Ito and Sabourin are compellingly introspective in their roles, as are Tanya Enook, as Paloosie’s accuser, and Rose Machmer, as a witness.

Except for one or two instances of speechifying, Keith Ross Leckie’s intelligent script does not pound its message home, and director Vic Sarin allows the subtle performances to make the necessary points dramatically.

Cinematographer Ian Elkin captures the stillness and blue-white light of the frozen landscape. Music by Simon Kendall and Al Rodger is judiciously used to heighten tension and hauntingly evokes the sense of an ancient culture struggling to survive.

Popular on Variety

Trial at Fortitude Bay

Production: Trial at Fortitude Bay (Fri. (15), 9-11 p.m., Lifetime)

Crew: Camera, Ian Elkin; editor, Lara Mazur; production designer, Andrew Deskin; art director, Deanne Rohde; sound, Leon Johnson; music, Simon Kendall, Al Rodger; casting, Bette Chadwick.

With: Cast: Lolita Davidovich, Henry Czerny, Raoul Trujillo, Marcel Sabourin, Robert Ito, Paul Gordon, Dave Brown, Rose Machmer, Tanya Enook, Leetia Riddell, Peter Williamson, Jukeepa Nauyuk, Kanayak Salominie, Natar Ungalaq, Barbara Gordon, Rick McNair, Nancy Drake, James Nicholson, Tracey McCorrister, Paul Stynyk, Paula Kazakewich, Joshua Kango, Gary Phillip. Fine acting and an unusual setting make "Trial at Fortitude Bay" an engrossing examination of culture clash in the courtroom. Topliners Lolita Davidovich and Henry Czerny should draw viewers to the telepic, which was made for Canadian television in 1994 and preems in the U.S. on Lifetime; "Trial's" subtlety and genuineness will keep audiences tuned in.

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