Zacharias Kunuk (2002-11-29)

Zacharias Kunuk
Practice: Film
Date of Lecture: 2002-11-29

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Winner of the Caméra d’Or last year at Cannes and a burgeoning international sensation, Zacharias Kunuk’s first feature – as well as the first feature to be made in the Inuktitut language – is an epic account of an Inuit blood feud, shot on DV in northernmost Canada. Mysterious, bawdy, emotionally intense, and replete with virtuoso throat singing, this three-hour movie is engrossing from first image to last, so devoid of stereotype and cosmic in its vision it could suggest the rebirth of cinema. As the arctic light and landscape beggar description, so the performances go beyond acting, and the production itself seems little short of miraculous. – Jim Hoberman, Village Voice (on Atanarjuat – The Fast Runner)

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Film still from Atanarjuat © Zacharias Kunuk

Born in a sod house on the arctic tundra in 1957, Kunuk was nine years old when his family was urged by the Canadian government to give up their nomadic lifestyle and settle in the new Baffin Island town of Igloolik. As a boy, Kunuk took up soapstone carving to raise the 25 cents needed to attend the movies at the Igloolik community hall. In 1981, already a famous carver, Kunuk sold three sculptures in Montreal and brought home the Arctic’s first video camera to a community that did not yet have television. Today Kunuk is president, and co-founder, of Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc., Canada’s first Inuit-owned independent production company. His films have received, and continue to garner wide international critical acclaim.