The Inuit hamlet of Igloolik, the place where celebrated film producer and director Zacharias Kunuk, himself a member of the Inuit tribe, received his education, became the first site for an innovative high-technology cultural Internet broadcasting project two years ago. The Globe and Mail reported on January 22 that the project, called the Digital Indigenous Democracy (DID) will help give birth to a new breed of grassroots filmmaking. It is centered in 10 communities of the Nunavut and is expected to make a big impact, i.e.,
“It could have a big impact on the use of indigenous languages in digital media and on how isolated Northerners understand — and perhaps alter — the futures being dreamt for them in office towers in Calgary and Toronto.“
Fifty-six year old Zacharias Kunuk is a Canadian Inuk director and producer. The multi-awarded director is widely known for “Atanarjuat,” the first dramatic feature film in Canada that was filmed entirely in the Inuktitut language. Inuktitut is also called Eastern Canadian Inuit or Eastern Canadian Inuktitut, one of Canada’s principal Inuit languages.
Kunuk is the co-founder and president of the Igloolik Isuma Productions, an independent Inuit production company, which is the first in Canada. His partners include Norman Cohn, Paul Apak Angirlirq and Paul Qulitalik.
Climate change project
He was the grand winner in nine film festivals around the world, including Cannes. He became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002. With Ian Mauro of the School of Environmental Studies of the University of Victoria, he co-founded the Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change Project. The project aims to collect information on the impact of climate change on the Inuit environment and culture from the Inuit elders’ perspective. The project will be turned into a film later and they have already submitted a project video to the United Nations in 2009.
Big plans for the Inuit community
While his cultural Internet project was started two years ago, Kunuk is more inspired than ever because of the technological advances in communication. The changes that have happened in the past two years provided Kunuk with the experience and the means to protect and possibly strengthen the language and lifestyle of his people. He and his partners want to save languages that have survived for 4,000 years.
Kunuk wanted to build an Internet that is capable of working audio-visually so that his people will be able to use the Inuit language. Their project was started with an initial $1 million grant from the experimental stream of Canada Media Fund. They were hampered by the low-bandwidth at that time, forcing the Northerners to use text in English to communicate. They are in the process of installing cheap DID media player to stream programs locally from the Isuma catalog. The locals in the 10 communities are learning to create films and some are already into it, putting their work in their own local playlists. Isuma plans to put up a TV station as well.
The Digital Indigenous Democracy got its start after Zacharias Kunuk intervened formally during the proposed Baffinland iron mine hearings in 2012. He presented Isuma video interviews and call-in radio shows, arguing that the multimedia conversations clearly indicated the obligation to consult and inform the indigenous people. Isuma later broadcast the Baffinland mine hearings in Pond Inlet and Igloolik live, which prompted the inclusion of multimedia consultations with the indigenous community throughout the mining project.
Photo credit: Taken by Frederick Cook under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.