A Nunavut filmmaker’s animated short wins an imagineNATIVE award

"Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice" explores Inuit shamanism.

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A scene from Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice. The film uses animation to explore Inuit shamanism. (Toronto International Film Festival via Nunatsiaq News)

A story of Inuit shamanism continues to make waves in the film industry.

Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice, an animated short film by renowned Nunavut filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, was given the Live Action Short Award at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on Oct. 24. The award brings with it a $7,500 cash prize.

Film, video, audio and digital media works by Indigenous artists from around the world were recognized across 18 categories in an online awards presentation held by the festival.

Kunuk’s film, which follows the story of a young woman and her grandmother seeking answers from a shaman to help heal a sick man, was the filmmaker’s attempt to illustrate a part of Inuit culture that was “hidden” by colonialism, Kunuk told Nunatsiaq News in August ahead of the film’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In a news release, imagineNATIVE noted that because it is a qualifying festival for the Best Live Action Short category for the Academy AwardsAngakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice will be eligible to submit for the Best Live Action Short category at the Oscars in 2022.

Other notable winners include Puisi, a two-minute experimental short film by Pilutaq Lundblad that looks at seal hunting and life in Greenland, which won the Innovation in Storytelling Award. Bootlegger, a film by Caroline Monnet about two women at odds over the sale of alcohol in their northern Quebec community, won the Dramatic Feature Award.

The imagineNATIVE festival is the largest in the world that showcases film and audio works made by Indigenous screen-content creators. Works from around the globe that reflect the diversity of Indigenous people and arts in contemporary media are presented at the annual festival.