With the 46th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) fast approaching, Taqqut Productions and Kingulliit Productions have announced that the stop-motion animated short film Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice (2021) has been accepted into the festival and will be screened this September. The short is directed by filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk OC, ON and stars Madeline Ivalu, Lucy Tulugarjuk and Jacky Qrunnut, with music by Beatrice Deer.
An adaptation of a traditional Inuit story, Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice centres around an Inuk apprenticing to her grandmother who is a shaman. Viewers are taken on a journey with the young shaman-in-training as she and her grandmother go underground to see Kannaaluk, the One Below, seeking answers as to why a community member has fallen ill. The story embodies important messages about overcoming challenges, facing fears and trusting in the teachings.
Despite TIFF being the film’s North American premiere, Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice is already receiving significant praise. In July, the film won the FIPRESCI Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France. The book adaptation, which was illustrated by Megan Kyak-Monteith, won the Indigenous Voices Award for work in an Indigenous language in 2021.
Director Zacharias Kunuk is no stranger to winning awards for his filmography. As co-founder of Isuma Productions, the first independent Inuit-led film production company in Canada, Kunuk has played a pivotal role in redefining filmmaking in Canada. He is best known for his debut feature film Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (2001) for which he won 19 awards worldwide, including the 2001 Caméra d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, six Genie Awards and Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF. Atanarjuat was the first Canadian feature film that was produced entirely in Inuktitut. The filmmaker also won the 2006 Caméra d'Or for his film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (2006) and made TIFF’s list for Canada’s Top 10 Films for 2019 for his film One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk (2019), which represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2019.
Kunuk’s influential work extends beyond the film world, as his development and encouragement of Inuit storytelling led to his induction as an Officer into the Order of Canada in 2002. In 2012 he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award for community service, and in 2017 Kunuk received the Toronto Film Critics Association’s Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award.
This year’s film festival takes place from September 9-15. Screening dates for Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice will be released on August 24.