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Zacharias Kunuk

Media and Communications (2001)

The sky is the limit. These are the words Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk uses when asked what advice he has for Aboriginal youth. He speaks with authority. Now only 43, Mr. Kunuk is the co-founder of Isuma Productions, the first Inuit independent film production company in Canada. Now the inhabitants of the forbidding Arctic, the Inuit, can turn on their televisions and see productions that truly reflect who and what they are. Through subtitles, the peoples of southern Canada and the world at large can now join with them and view the Inuit world through the prism that is Mr. Kunuk’s camera. In 1981, he brought the Arctic’s first video portapack home with him to Igloolik, a remote community of 900 which had twice refused southern television, fearing for their culture. He never looked back. Soon, he confronted the non-Aboriginal production power-brokers – the CBC, Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board – over the rights of Inuit to make films in an Inuit voice and from their own perspective. Appropriately his first film was entitled From an Inuit Point of View. Mr. Kunuk has just released Atanaijuat (The Fast Runner), a $2 million historic thriller based on an ancient Inuit legend. He has also produced a television series called Ammiturmiut, which won the Best Series Award for the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation four years running. His films have been screened from Tokyo to Copenhagen and New York to Madrid. Though he’s been honoured around the world, Mr. Kunuk still fixes his own snowmobile at home in Igloolik, hunts seals at breathing holes, and remains true to an ancient past.