‘Easier than real actors’; Igloolik director talks about latest award-nominated film


A new movie about Inuit spiritualism and shamanism is nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for best animated short film.

The Shaman’s Apprentice was written, illustrated and directed by Zacharias Kunuk of Igloolik, NU. It also put him on a short list for the Academy Award for best animated short.

“I was trying new ways of doing things, and with this one, it’s a lot easier than real actors acting it out.”

Kunuk is best know for working with ‘real actors’ in Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. It was the first feature film performed entirely in Inuktitut.

In his first animated movie, Kunuk was a stickler for the cultural details.

“All the costumes, I had to draw out and approve,” he said in an interview with APTN News. “And sometimes they would make the hood wrong, but I would correct that.

“Of course, they’d never seen dog teaming, so there’s a scene where there is a dog team, and all the harness have to be right. I had to show them that. The sled had to be our style.”

The Shaman characters visited the Underworld as part of their journey. But Kunuk struggled with how they actually reached their destination.

“So then I thought, maybe a human bone ladder? So I asked an elder and they started laughing at me right away,” he said.

“She asked me, ‘How are you going to climb down to Hell?’ Oh, OK, I got it.”

The Shaman’s Apprentice has already won Best Short Film at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Canadian Screen Awards will be announced in April.

Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.