Film showcase a hit
Zachary Kunuk gets his People's Choice Award

by Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

NNSL (DEC 09/96) - When Zachary Kunuk rose to accept his People's Choice Award at the first annual Far North Film Festival, he admits he was surprised his film was chosen as a winner.

Tugaliaq, or Ice Blocks, won an award for best film shown on the opening night of the festival Nov. 29 in Yellowknife.

"It was quite an honor to be here with so many talented film-makers. I was a bit surprised," Kunuk said at the festival's wrap party, the night he won his People's Choice awards. "I learned a lot."

Tugaliaq is one of 13 programs of the Nunavut television series which recreates life in 1946 in the Igloolik area, where, for the first time in any country, an aboriginal culture has produced a professional dramatic television series to tell its story from its own point of view. The series follows a group of characters, played by contemporary Inuit, through the different seasons of the year

Kunuk, who was born in 1957 out on the land at Kapuivik, near Igloolik, says it was in 1982 that he first got involved in the movie business.

"I sold some of my carvings to buy a video camera. It was strange because nobody in Igloolik had a TV and everyone would come over to my house to see the footage I'd shot."

After producing his first independent video, From an Inuk Point of View, Kunuk went on to work as a senior producer for the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, where he produced more than 30 programs in the Inuktitut language.

By 1990, Kunuk says, he was ready to go it alone and started Igloolik Isuma Productions. Isuma, which means "to have an idea" in Inuktitut, has found success in exporting its productions to places like Turkey and is currently negotiating sales in European company.

Overall, 25 films were shown in the festival, which offered a mix of everything from the musical video When My Ship Comes In by the ever-popular throat-singing duo Tudjaat, to public service announcements produced by Swan Productions for the NWT Seniors Society.

"All in all it went extremely well. There were so many exciting films. The festival can only get better in the future," the film festival's moderator Bob Sandford said.

Sandford, who's been closely associated with the Banff Festival of Mountain Films, organized similar festivals in Alberta and hopes by next year entries from other polar countries will be included in the festival.

Melanie Grindlay, the chair for the film festival's steering committee, agrees.

"The mission is to encourage and promote film and video productions in the circumpolar world. As it grows we hope it will attract film-makers from other circumpolar countries."