New Isuma film to be unveiled in Igloolik

Isuma seeks Cannes entry for The Journals of Knud Rasmussen



Film maker Norman Cohn heads to Paris next week in a crucial step in his marketing campaign for The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, his $6.3 million movie shot last year in Igloolik.

Cohn has a lot riding on the Paris trip. The film, directed by Cohn’s business partner, Zacharias Kunuk, will be shown to a group of people who will decide whether it will be selected for screening later this year at the Cannes film festival.

If it’s chosen for Cannes, and is well received by influential critics at the festival, the movie stands an excellent chance of repeating the international success of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, Cohn and Kunuk’s first feature film, which won a top award at Cannes in 2001.

“I think there’s a very good chance that The Journals will do well in France and in the U.S.,” Cohn said in an interview. He said that over the past few years, it’s become evident that small, independent films can find international audiences — and success — if they are well made and well received by critics at prestigious venues such as Cannes. “More than ever, the hook for a successful independent film is that it’s a really good movie,” he said.

If the movie manages to win over critics at Cannes and other festivals, Cohn will be able to strike lucrative distribution deals in the U.S. and Europe. In Canada, the film will be distributed by Atlantis Alliance Odeon. Distribution deals have also been made in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland through Barok Film, a Danish company which co-produced the film with Cohn and Kunuk’s Igloolik Isuma Productions.

Targeting influential critics at film festivals enables the small Nunavut production company to compete with the tremendous budgets and marketing efforts of Hollywood studios. But for Cohn and Kunuk, a series of screenings scheduled next month in Igloolik is every bit as important, in its way, as Cannes.

The movie, like its predecessor, Atanarjuat, will be shown to everyone in Igloolik who wishes to attend. That’s likely to be every one of the 1,200 people in town.

As Cohn points out, this audience includes all of the local actors, crew and others involved in making the movie. “If we didn’t screen it for them, they wouldn’t be able to see the movie they made,” he said.

As Cohn begins the grind of marketing The Journals, he and Kunuk are already thinking ahead to their next feature film. This time, they’ve chosen to act as executive producers, while the movie is written and directed by a women’s film collective in Igloolik.

Filming is to begin this summer on Before Tomorrow, which is based on a novel by the Danish author Jorn Riel. As Cohn describes it, the plot revolves around “a grandmother and grandson who find themselves possibly being the last two people alone in their world.”

The budget for this film is $3.5 million, much less than for The Journals. The relatively modest budget, Cohn explained, reflects much lower costs for a small cast, rather than any projections for the commercial prospects of the project.

Cohn is vague about just where the movie will be made, saying only that it will be “somewhere in the Arctic.” That may reflect the rocky relationship that his production company had with the GN’s film bureaucrats over labor credits and other issues for The Journals.

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