Igloolik’s Isuma to celebrate Nunavut nation-wide

Isuma Production in Igloolik lands a deal to produce a two- hour made-for-TV film to be aired nation-wide in April 1999.



Igloolik Isuma Productions has landed a deal with CBC’s national television network for an all-Inuit made-for-television movie called Atanajuat (fast runner) to be aired during the year that Nunavut is inaugurated.

Zacharias Kunuk is spearheading this ambitious project. He says the two-hour all-Inuit television movie will be written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit.

This will showcase Inuit culture and film-making skills to the whole country as part of 1999’s Nunavut celebration.

He says the three-million dollar budget is small compared to southern standards, but is a huge Inuit project. Shooting was to have happened this year, but due to a number of set backs, it’s being held up.

English and French dialogue?

“We are experiencing some snags, as an all-Inuit production company whose main goal is to produce Inuit-speaking materials. The executives at CBC are leaning towards an English and French speaking show and that’s a problem for us,” said Kunuk.

“We wanted to film everything in Inuktitut with subtitles, but now it’s likely not going to happen.” added Kunuk.

Kunuk says the preferences of the southern CBC executives are first and formost. “We are looking at filming everything in Inuktitut and later lip-sync it to the official languages.”

Aboriginal language shunned by CBC?

The only problem Kunuk sees is the aboriginal languages are again being shunned by southerners and he doesn’t like it.

He says funding sources include Telefilm Canada, Toronto partners with Inuit sponsors, the Baffin Business Development Center, the Kakivak Association, and GNWT Culture and Employment.

Film about a legendary Inuk

The film is of a legend from the Igloolik area. It involves passion, hatred, deadly ambition, and powerful magic.

The story of Atanajuat (fast runner) is set about 500 years ago, where two families are in a conflict that affects the balance of the community.

It tells of the struggle to regain spiritual harmony and getting rid of an evil spirit.

The original screenplay was written by Paul Apak. Since then four different versions have been produced.

“1998 spring will be the shooting year and we are aiming to air the finished product in April 1999, when the new Nunavut government is in place,” says Kunuk

New technology from Sony

Sony Canada is providing Isuma a free test of their advanced digital Betacam wide screen video camera. Sony has been very supportive of the project and sees Atanajuat as a good way to promote its top product.

“I’m elated that we will use the state-of-the-art equipment for this film,” Kunuk says.

Isuma production moving up the ladder

“I myself have been intrigued with the usage of the film medium ever since I was young. We can work together by combining the best of both worlds with the usage of language and culture, we can produce good materials.”

The Isuma production team has slowly risen within the film industry, regionally, nationally and internally with different works such as the renowned “Nunavut” television series.

Currently they are in the final edit process of a documentary on the bowhead hunt last summer in Repulse Bay.

Lack of support from Inuit organizations

Kunuk says, however, that Inuit organizations nave mostly ignored the project.

Last winter, “we had a funding drive in Iqaluit. We tried to get funding from the Inuit organizations like NTI, QC, QIA and economic development. None of them have ever written back or have contacted us, which is a shame because this is an Inuit film for Inuit.”

Isuma is in the process of deciding who will play the lead role, as well as choosing other actors.

They plan to train them before shooting next year. And there is a whole list of issues that need to be taken care of, like training, wardrobe and so on.

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