Part 2 of my coverage of the Gimme Some Truth documentary conference and festival in Winnipeg.
Yesterday I met many delegates and guests in my hotel who are converging on Winnipeg this weekend for what is being described as one the largest aboriginal art and culture gatherings in North America. It’s called Manito Ahbee festival and yesterday was the pow-wow with performance competitions. After breakfast I headed over to the Urban Shaman Art Gallery, where I blogged this entry from, to listen to a presentation by Zacharias Kunuk about his project Isuma.tv. Isuma was started by Kunuk and three others from Nunavut as an indigenous portal for language art and culture. Kunuk is the filmmaker who brought the world the Cannes Palme d’Or-winning film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. He has since launched a campaign to create aboriginal media in Northern Canada and to provide a platform for indigenous media the world over at Isuma.tv. In the first 9 months of the site’s online life it saw over 3 million hits. There are films, fiction, documentary, television shows, recordings of elders discussing traditional living, live webcams, channels and media from Nunavit, from Norway, New Zealand, Australia and more.
Kunuk’s latest campaign is to bring high speed internet to communities in Canada’s north. He told us that while the mining companies and government offices enjoy high speed, Inuit communities are still on dial-up. Kunuk sees the internet as a tool for sharing aboriginal media across the vast landmass below the Canadian arctic. As the languages and cultures of indigenous cultures disappear, people like Zacharias Kunuk and his project Isuma.tv, are vital life lines and life rafts for cultures under siege – cultures that are fighting back with media that they call their own.
After the talk, Kunuk screened his newest work, a documentary called Kiviaq vs. Canada. The one hour film is about Kiviaq, Canada’s first Inuk (singular form of Inuit) lawyer who is fighting to have the status of Inuit recognized under Canadian law, just as First Nations are. Kiviaq was born Inuit, but was “Christanized” and survived displacement, state intervention into his identity, language and culture, as well as a life with a mean-spirited adoptive (white) father. He learned to cope with the injustices brought upon him and his people by taking up boxing and politics, his latest battle a protracted legal suit against the government of Canada who seem intent on stalling while the near-70 year-old undergoes treatment for a cancer that could take his life before he sees victory.
Kunuk’s newest film, not yet-released, is called Exiles and is about the displacement of aboriginal peoples in Canada by way of repugnant government “integration” programs.