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Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times, June 16, 2014
Cool in tone and temperature, Nick Bentgen’s “Northern Light” turns white vistas and blue language into a sneakily compelling, endlessly patient observation of three working-class families in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Alan Scherstuhl , The Village Voice, June 16, 2014
Those moments, mostly brief, are shot with a rigorous, revelatory beauty by Bentgen, even the on-the-fly chats caught in the houses. He bisects his frames with partitions and refrigerators, his people gently crammed into their homes — not unpleasantly, but just enough so we feel with them the wide-open thrill of the frozen lakes they escape to.
Wes Greene, Slant Magazine, June 15, 2014
Northern Light, like the lives of its subjects, never precisely feels finished. As the serene and ambiguous final shot implies, some seemingly important events in the present are only incidental moments in the immense scope of a lifetime, and, regardless of the outcome, all one can do is simply move on.
Lance Edmands, Hammer To Nail, June 13, 2014
Nick was at the Viennale in support of his superlative documentary Northern Light, a poetic meditation on family and landscape in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (though Bentgen shot and directed, he shares an “a film by” credit with producer Lisa Kjerulff). I first caught Northern Light at BAMCinemaFest last summer and its haunting images and modest yet compelling characters have stuck with me ever since.
Steve Dollar, The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2013
As for undistributed discoveries, check out "Northern Light," Brooklyn-based filmmaker Nick Bentgen's documentary about working-class families in Michigan's Upper Peninsula passionate about competitive snowmobile racing that was one of the finds at this year's True/False Film Festival.
Craig Hubert, Blouin ARTINFO, June 26, 2013
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.
Michael Tully, Hammer to Nail, June 19, 2013
I realize I’m making a bold statement here, but while watching Nick Bentgen and Lisa Kjerulff’s artistic documentary, instead of comparing it to other documentaries, I found myself thinking about Walker Evans and James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Bentgen’s family is from this frozen corner of the country, and it shows in each and every frame. Patient, observant, and deeply generous, Northern Light is a welcome respite from the typical message-based nonfiction one stumbles across seemingly everywhere these days.
Matt Prigge, Metro, June 19, 2013
Though concerned with rural life in wintry economic times, Nick Bentgen’s debut documentary captures all of life, not just the bad stuff. 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, but the impression that comes off is people just keepin’ on keepin’ on.
Henry Stewart, The L Magazine, June 18, 2013
Now in its fifth year, BAMcinemaFest (June 19-28) may not have the cultural cachet of the New York or Tribeca film festivals, but it's quickly becoming a local favorite for those in-the-know. Two years ago, the New Yorker's Richard Brody called it "the city’s best independent-film showcase." And that's still true—maybe even more so.
Blake Williams, BlogTO, April 24, 2013
By turns a thrilling sports film, an ethnographic portrait of Mid-West ruralites, and an essay on bodies and human ambition, Nick Bentgen's film would feel like a breakthrough even if one were only looking at its veiled observations of gender roles, with the women seemingly cast aside as workman's assistants and cheerleaders, until they aren't. The final shot, showing a basic workout routine, is a stunning image in its own right, and is as pointed and in-your-face as any closing statement I've seen all year, if only for the audacity of ending this film on that note.
Robert Bell, exclaim.ca, April 23, 2013
They've made 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.
Dustin Chang, floating world, April 3, 2013
Bentgen possesses a painterly eye and visual grace scarce in documentary filmmaking and zen-like patience and maturity in acutely sketching out this side of Americana- rarely in films, driving through a snow storm, a lone street lamp, a white breath of a silhouetted hunter looked this beautiful.
Nicolas Rapold, film comment, March 25, 2013
It’s an elegantly assembled work that gathers slowly
Eric Hynes, cinema scope, March 19, 2013
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.
Nick Pinkerton and Nicolas Rapold, Sundance Now, March 12, 2013
I quite liked Northern Light, which gave a heroic treatment to a stoic, can-fix-anything Upper Peninsula dad reaching his last years of competitive snowmobiling, one of the many variations on the theme of competition that the film plays on.