w/ Michael Red

DID in the News!

Inuit filmmaker uses multimedia to empower remote communities

Isolated communities join the political dialogue through Digital Indigenous Democracy initiative Culture


I still vividly remember the first time I watched illustrious Nunavut filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk’s daring Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, the first film written, directed and acted entirely in the Inuktitut language.

Set in the frigid outdoors of Igloolik at the turn of the first millennium, Atanarjuat tells a centuries-old Inuit legend passed down orally from generation to generation. Shot in the Eastern Arctic wilderness, the film’s visuals are all-consuming and so thoroughly foreign to what the average movie-goer is accustomed to.

The highest grossing Canadian picture of 2002, Atanarjuat achieved what so many of the best films do: presenting a perspective that the viewer has never seen or better yet, never even knew existed.

It’s an understatement to say that the majority of Canadians don’t know much about Inuit culture, traditions and values — myself included. A more cynical view would be that most Canadians don’t really care to learn, but fortunately, Kunuk has committed to telling compelling, authentic Inuit stories told with the help of the Inuit themselves throughout his long career.

It’s a trend that Kunuk is continuing with one of the more innovative multimedia projects I’ve ever come across, called Digital Indigenous Democracy (DID), which aims to put the power of consensus into the hands of 10 remote Inuit northern communities. (I owe a huge debt to Globe and Mail reporter Robert Everett-Green for his meticulously researched article on this topic from Jan. 17.)

The concept was first formed in 2012 when an Inuit community on Baffin Island faced a $6-billion environmental review of a proposed iron mine. Thanks to Kunuk’s intervention, which saw him present dozens of call-in radio shows and video interviews with affected residents, the project has since been scaled back and even comes with a legal obligation to include future multimedia consultation.

The main issue for these isolated communities is a lack of affordable Internet service. That means residents in small Inuit enclaves often have to resort to communicating online using only text in a language many aren’t fluent in, barring full access to potential online resources and communication channels that could impact their political and social decision making process.

Digital Indigenous Democracy looks to level the playing field by installing comparatively cheap media players in 10 communities where residents can instantly stream over 5,000 videos in 50 different languages from the Isuma TV catalogue, a film company Kunuk co-founded. The collection is mostly driven by Inuit culture, and includes everything from musical performances to hunting clips to full-length feature films. It also gives the opportunity to Inuit filmmakers, like the film society currently thriving in the small town of Arviat, to upload and show their own work.

It’s an initiative from which the rest of Canada could learn a thing or two. Even in our current Internet age, with smartphone-sporting pre-teens and a culture of online oversharing, we need to ask ourselves if we’re really using the digital tools at our disposal in a productive manner.

Just as the outside world learned about the refreshing simplicities of Inuit life after Kunuk’s Atanarjuat, we can look back to those northern communities in order to glean some insight on how to exist and thrive in our own digital era.


© Copyright 2014, Whistler Question Story

Live Webcast of NIRB Mary River Hearings

IsumaTV's will provide online radio and TV coverage of the second round of Public Hearings on the Baffinland Iron Mine Mary River Environmental Review from Pond Inlet, Nunavut.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) is holding new public consultations to assess Baffinland’s revised Early Revenue Phase Proposal.

January 27 to 31, 2014

Starting 9 am EST, IsumaTV will stream live Inuktitut and English audio each day from the hearings.

Every evening from 8 to 10 pm EST, Zacharias Kunuk will host a live TV talk show to discuss issues raised at the hearings with community members and participants in the hearings.




Both the live audio from the hearings and Kunuk’s evening show will also be broadcast by IsumaTV through local community radio channels and IsumaTV television network in Arviat, Cambridge Bay, Igloolik and Taloyoak.


For more information contact: 
Zacharias Kunuk, 867-934-8725, 
Norman Cohn, 514-576-0707,


Live Webcast of NIRB Mary River Hearings

IsumaTV will provide live online radio coverage of the second round of Public Hearings on the Baffinland Iron Mine Mary River Environmental Review from Pond Inlet, Nunavut.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) is holding new public consultations to assess Baffinland’s revised Early Revenue Phase Proposal.

Starting 9 am EST, IsumaTV will stream live Inuktitut audio each day from the hearings.

English audio will also be available here.

Also every evening from 8 to 10 pm EST, Zacharias Kunuk will host a live TV talk show to discuss issues raised at the hearings with community members and participants in the hearings.

DID in the News!

Zacharias Kunuk Creates Cultural Internet for the Inuits of Canada

By Bernadine Racoma 

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.“

Zacharias Kunuk

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.