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Igloolik Isuma Productions
IndustryProduction company
FounderZacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn, Paul Apak Angilirq
HeadquartersIgloolik, ,
Number of locations
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
New York City, New York, US
Key people
Zacharias Kunuk (president), Paul Apak Angilirq (vice-president), Pauloosie Qulitalik (chairman), Norman Cohn (secretary-treasurer)

Isuma (Inuktitut syllabics, ᐃᓱᒪ; Inuktituk for "to think") is an artist collective and Canada's first Inuit (75%) production company, co-founded by Zacharias Kunuk, Paul Apak Angilirq and Norman Cohn in Igloolik, Nunavut in 1990. Known internationally for its award-winning film, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, the first feature film ever to be written, directed and acted entirely in the Inuktitut language,[1] Isuma was selected to represent Canada at the 2019 Venice Biennale, the first presentation of art by Inuit in the Canada Pavilion.[2][3][4]

Isuma focuses on bringing people of multiple age ranges, cultural backgrounds, and belief systems together to support and promote Canada's indigenous community through television, the Internet and film.[5] Isuma's mission is to produce independent, community-based media aimed 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. Isuma is connected to Arnait Video Productions.


In 1999, the company filmed and produced the supernatural historical thriller Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. It was a box-office success around the world, and won the Caméra d'Or for Best First Feature Film at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, six Genie Awards (including Best Picture), and several other international film awards. The film had its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001.

The massive critical success of Atanarjuat led to funding from Telefilm Canada, enabling Isuma to begin development on multiple scripts. One of these, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, about the switch from shamanism to Christianity in Igloolik in the early 1920s, received the offer to open the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006.

In 2011, Isuma filed for receivership, citing $750,000 in debts, including $500,000 to Atuqtuarvik Corp. of Rankin Inlet. A Montreal-based receiver, RSM Richter, put the company’s assets—most notably its film library—up for sale.[6][7]

Since Isuma means "to have a thought", the collaborators of Igloolik Isuma Productions encourage alternative and multimedia processes designed to make the world at large think not only about the Inuit and their current plight, but about indigenous peoples in general, and the future of the role of community in society. Much of the New World’s wealth today was extracted from its Aboriginal citizens, who by every measure now are the most destitute populations in these countries. If the Inuit of Fast Runner ended up in 1922 in church, the Inuit of The Journals ended up in today’s newspapers stories, living in Third World ghettos scattered across the wealthiest First World nations.

Historically, how a country treats its indigenous people is an excellent gauge of its social and political views on humanism in general; what happens to the indigenous peoples of any given country is a sign of what will eventually happen to the dominant culture in time. Even today the law, education, religion and media continue to efface living memories of Aboriginal cultural history. As Norman Cohn says,

Save the seals and Save the bears seems more attractive than Save the people, but unless the rights of humans to live in their habitat are more widely recognized and protected it's a little fatuous to even dream about saving birds and animals.

Isuma aims to increase awareness and focus about and for indigenous peoples of all cultures, not just Northern Canada, through encouraging multimedia approaches. Their goal is to ensure that these rights are not compartmentalized, but rather include the awareness of human rights in a larger cultural and holistic context: through exploration of spirituality, globalization, environmentalism, cinema, world media, and Native awareness.


IsumaTV logo

Isuma launched IsumaTV in 2008.[8] A multimedia website and online portal for Inuit and Indigenous culture, it is dedicated to Indigenous filmmakers and is a free service. The site hosts films that put forth an aboriginal view and is intended to help Native communities around the world become connected.[9]



Unikaatuatiit (Story Tellers) series[edit]

  • Qaggiq (Gathering Place, 1989)[14]
  • Nunaqpa (Going Inland, 1991)[15]
  • Saputi (Fish Traps, 1993)[16]


  • Alert Bay (1989)
  • Attagutaaluk (Starvation, 1992)
  • Qulliq (Oil Lamp, 1993)
  • Nunavut (Our Land, 1994–95) 13-part TV series
  • Piujuk & Angutautuk (1994)
  • Sanannguarti (Carver, 1995)
  • Nipi (Voice, 1999)
  • Nanugiurutiga (My First Polar Bear, 2000)
  • Ningiura (My Grandmother, 2000)
  • Anaana (Mother, 2001)
  • Ajainaa! (Almost!, 2001)
  • Artcirq (2001)
  • Arviq! (Bowhead!, 2002)
  • Angakkuiit (Shaman Stories, 2003)
  • Kunuk Family Reunion (2004)
  • Unakuluk (Dear little one, 2005)
  • Qallunajatut (Urban Inuk, 2005)
  • Kiviaq vs. Canada (2006)[17][18]
  • Kivitoo: What They Thought of Us (2018)[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Krauss, Clifford (2002-03-30). "Returning Tundra's Rhythm to the Inuit, in Film". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  2. ^ Entertainment, P. M. N. (2017-12-13). "Artist collective Isuma to represent Canada at the 2019 Venice Biennale | National Post". Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  3. ^ "Artist collective Isuma to represent Canada at the 58th International Art Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia in 2019". Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  4. ^ a b "Venice in furs – an Inuit collective at the Biennale". Apollo Magazine. 2019-05-08. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  5. ^ Dec 16, Sara Frizzell · CBC News · Posted:; December 16, 2017 5:00 AM CT | Last Updated:; 2017. "'Look how far we've come': Inuit artist collective to represent Canada at Venice Biennale | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2019-02-17.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. ^ Dixon, Guy (30 December 2011). "Out in the cold: the struggle of Inuit film". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  7. ^ "Nunavut: a timeline for the year that was". Nunatsiaq News. 2 January 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  8. ^ Jun 19, CBC Arts · Posted:; June 19, 2008 5:44 PM ET | Last Updated:; 2008. " goes live from Iqaluit for National Aboriginal Day | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2019-02-17.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  9. ^ "Isuma". IsumaTV. Retrieved 2019-02-17.
  10. ^ Atanarjuat
  11. ^ The Journals of Knud Rasmussen
  12. ^ Before Tomorrow
  13. ^ Exile Archived 2009-04-01 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Qaggiq
  15. ^ Nunaqpa
  16. ^ Saputi
  17. ^ Documentaries
  18. ^ Nunavut (Our Land) Series