Igloolik Isuma Productions, Inc. was incorporated in January 1990 as Canada's first Inuit independent production company. Isuma is 75% Inuit-owned. The founding shareholders are Zacharias Kunuk (President), Paul Apak Angilirq (Vice-President), Pauloosie Qulitalik (Chairman), and Norman Cohn (Secretary-Treasurer). Paul Apak passed away in December 1998. Isuma’s headquarters are in Igloolik, Nunavut, with a southern office in Montreal and international representation in New York.
Isuma's mission is to produce independent community-based media – films, TV and now Internet - to preserve and enhance Inuit culture and language; to create jobs and economic development in Igloolik and Nunavut; and to tell authentic Inuit stories to Inuit and non-Inuit audiences worldwide.
Beginning in 1988, Isuma’s unique style of ‘re-lived’ drama - Qaggiq (Gathering Place, 1988), Nunaqpa (Going Inland, 1990), Saputi (Fish Traps, 1993), and the 13 part dramatic TV series, Nunavut (Our Land, 1994-95) - achieved worldwide recognition and acclaim, winning awards in Canada, France, Peru, USA, Spain, Taiwan and Japan.
In 1999, Isuma filmed the first Aboriginal-language Canadian feature movie, Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, a $1.96 million historical thriller based on an Igloolik legend of love, jealousy, murder and revenge, with financing from Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board. Filmmaking in Igloolik in 1999 contributed $1 million to the local economy, creating more than sixty part-time and twenty full-time jobs in this isolated and under-employed community.
Among other international festival awards, Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc., was named 1996 Nunavut Business of the Year by the Baffin Region Chamber of Commerce, and, in 1997, received the President's Award from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for '…outstanding achievement in preserving and enhancing Inuit culture and language…'. In 1994, Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn won Canada's prestigious Bell Canada Award for Outstanding Achievement in Video Art.
The Dawn of the Millenium
Atanarjuat The Fast Runner won the Caméra d'Or for Best First Feature Film at the 2001 Cannes International Film Festival, six Canadian Genies including Best Picture and 19 international festival awards overall. The film was a box office success in France, Canada, the U.S. and twenty other countries around the world, and more than sixty international film critics named it one of the Ten Best Films of 2002.
The Canadian box office success of Atanarjuat The Fast Runner won Isuma a 3-year Performance Envelope of financing from Telefilm Canada, enabling Isuma in 2003 to begin developing seven new scripts for future productions. In 2005, the first led to The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, a $6.3 million Canada-Denmark co-production set in 1922 Igloolik, when Inuit changed from Shamanism to Christianity. The Journals was selected to open the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, with the release date set for September 29, 2006.
In the Summer-Fall 2006, Isuma’s next feature in production for 2007 release is Before Tomorrow, based on a novel by well-known Danish writer Jorn Riel: the story of an Inuit grandmother and grandson who find themselves the last humans on earth. Before Tomorrow is written and directed by the Arnait Video Productions, on a $3.5 million budget.
Isuma also produces and distributes documentaries for television including most recently, Artcirq (2001), Kunuk Family Reunion (2003), Urban Inuk (2005) and Kiviaq vs. Canada (2006). In 2003, Isuma entered into a co-venture with Kunuk Cohn Productions to establish Isuma Distribution International (IDI), to distribute and sell Inuit and other Aboriginal films and television series in Canada and internationally. Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen and Before Tomorrow are all distributed in Canada by Alliance Atlantis MPD, and internationally by IDI.
In 2006, Atuqtuarvik Corporation, the investment agency representing the Nunavut Land Claim, invested $1 million in Igloolik Isuma Productions to help develop new capacity and growth of Inuktitut films and television programming. Isuma has several new films in development as well as a children’s television series.
In 1991, with support from Canada Council of the Arts, Isuma helped create Tarriaksuk Video Centre, the Arctic’s first independent non-profit video training and access centre. Through the 1990s, Tarriaksuk sponsored Arnait Video Productions (Women's Video Workshop), Inuusiq (Life) Youth Drama Workshop and began local broadcasting through cable television Channel 24. Beginning in 1995, Channel 24 produced over 300 news and current affairs programs called Nunatinniit (At Our Place).
In 1999, Arnait Video Productions incorporated as the first women’s collective independent production company in the Arctic. Arnait continued to produce programs from the women's point of view, which have been exhibited in festivals and museums in many countries, including Ninguira (My Grandmother, 1999), a half-hour drama about women and health; Anaana (Mother, 2002) and Unakuluk (Dear Little One, 2006) about Inuit adoption. Currently, the key members of the Arnait women’s group are writing and directing Isuma’s third feature film, Before Tomorrow scheduled for release in 2007.
In 1999, Inuusiq (Life) Youth Drama Group was created to use art, performance and video as tools by youth to combat youth suicide. This led to production of Inuusiq (Life, 1999), a one-hour docu-drama, and Artcirq (2001), a documentary about Igloolik’s youth circus and video performance group. Artcirq and the Innusiq group currently are developing a youth feature film to be produced by Isuma in 2007-08.
In 2001, Tarriaksuk and Channel 24 evolved into a new non-profit society, Nunavut Independent Television Network (NITV), to expand local access television in Igloolik and develop use of internet-TV (IPTV) to link other Nunavut communities with increased Inuktitut-language TV programming. Join us Fall 2007 for the official launch.