Nunavut filmmaker’s animated short wins imagineNATIVE award

Zacharias Kunuk’s Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice receives Live Action Short Award

A scene from Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice. The film uses animation to explore Inuit shamanism. (Screenshot courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival)

By Madalyn Howitt

A story of Inuit shamanism continues to make waves in the film industry.

Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice, an animated short film by renowned Nunavut filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, was given the Live Action Short Award at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on Oct. 24. The award brings with it a $7,500 cash prize.

Film, video, audio and digital media works by Indigenous artists from around the world were recognized across 18 categories in an online awards presentation held by the festival.

Kunuk’s film, which follows the story of a young woman and her grandmother seeking answers from a shaman to help heal a sick man, was the filmmaker’s attempt to illustrate a part of Inuit culture that was “hidden” by colonialism, Kunuk told Nunatsiaq News in August ahead of the film’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In a news release, imagineNATIVE noted that because it is a qualifying festival for the Best Live Action Short category for the Academy Awards, Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice will be eligible to submit for the Best Live Action Short category at the Oscars in 2022.

Other notable winners include Puisi, a two-minute experimental short film by Pilutaq Lundblad that looks at seal hunting and life in Greenland, which won the Innovation in Storytelling Award. Bootlegger, a film by Caroline Monnet about two women at odds over the sale of alcohol in their northern Quebec community, won the Dramatic Feature Award.

The imagineNATIVE festival is the largest in the world that showcases film and audio works made by Indigenous screen-content creators. Works from around the globe that reflect the diversity of Indigenous people and arts in contemporary media are presented at the annual festival.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Radio Free Nunavut on

    I’m curious about the claim that Shamanism was made ‘hidden’ by colonialism? Perhaps this is a reference to how it was marginalized socially by the Church?

    I say that Shamanism, much like any cosmology (including Christianity), was a viral meme plex that disintegrated as it proved ineffective against the diseases brought by Europeans and was made obsolete by the technologies brought by those same people; specifically, the rifle—far more effective than amulets and elaborate spells in catching prey.

    I suspect it is also likely that the political order on which it thrived was one that had become stagnant, corrupted and an easy tool for abuse; this made abandonment of it very easy for those who did not benefit from their place in the scheme of things, and worse, suffered deprivations because of it.

    Much like Christianity, Shamanism was grounded on a shared illusion. Its magic was never real, though the subjectively held beliefs made it appear to be… and this was a social glue, until the glue showed that it didn’t actually work.

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    • Posted by Snapshot on

      Yes and no.

      • Posted by Radio Free Nunavut on

        I’d love to hear more.. sincerely

    • Posted by Ysée Gaudel-Eisel on

      Beliefs and practices categorized as “shamanic” have attracted the interest of scholars from a variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, religious studies scholars, philosophers and psychologists. Hundreds of books and academic papers on the subject have been produced, with a peer-reviewed academic journal being devoted to the study of shamanism.

      In the 20th century, Westerners involved in counter-cultural movements created modern magico-religious practices influenced by their ideas of indigenous religions from across the world, creating what has been termed neoshamanism or the neoshamanic movement. It has affected the development of many neopagan practices, as well as faced a backlash and accusations of cultural appropriation, exploitation and misrepresentation when outside observers have tried to represent cultures to which they do not belong.

    • Posted by Wayne Brines on

      When you say it didn’t work, mental conditioning allows for cures of physiological problems. Belief. As with the witch doctor who has herbal cures, is there cures through the use of animal parts. Are there known herbal cures available in the summer.

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