Zacharias Kunuk

Inuit filmmaker

Born: 1957, Kapuivik, Baffin Island

Zacharias Kunuk was born in his family's winter sodhouse and spent the first years of his life living off the land and learning how to handle dog teams. In 1966, at the government's insistence, he was sent to Igloolik to attend school.

While he was there, he began carving and selling soapstone so he could afford the price of admission to the local movie theatre. His skill as a carver grew and he started buying cameras, using them to photograph hunting scenes. In 1981, he heard about video cameras. He saved his money, flew to Montreal, bought a camera, VCR, and television set, brought them home, and taught himself to make movies.

For eight years, Kunuk worked for the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, filming elders as they talked about early times. When he left, he started his own production company with Norman Cohn, Paulossie Qulitalik, and Paul Apak Angilirq. Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc. was incorporated in 1990 as the first Inuit independent production company. They released several documentaries and short dramas and then aired the first Inuit TV series, Nunavut: Our Land, in 1994-95.

Kunuk and Isuma worked for five years to get the funding to make a feature movie. In 2000, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner was released to critical acclaim, winning awards worldwide. It was the first Canadian feature to be filmed in an Aboriginal language – Inuktitut.

Zacharias Kunuk still lives in Igloolik and continues to create films, documentaries, and TV shows for and about the Inuit.

Additional trivia:

Isuma means ‘to think’.
The company is 75% Inuit-owned.

More information on:

Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
Isuma Productions


By Name · K
By Province · Territories
By Claim to Fame · Stage & Screen · Firsts
Group(s) · Aboriginal People

Added 12 March 2003.