Inuit short film makes the Oscars short list

Still from Angakakusajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice (Courtesy of Taqqut Productions, Kingulliit Productions)

The adaptation of a traditional Inuit tale into an animated short film entitled Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice has been selected for the final round of the Oscar race.

Along with 14 other nominees, 5 of which are Canadian, the animated feature directed by Zacharias Kunuk is in the running for the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice has already won a number of awards since its premiere screening last July.

It won the FIPRESCI award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the Best Canadian Short Film award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Best Canadian Animation award at the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival.

M. Kunuk originally gained international recognition for his film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, the first feature film made in Inuktitut. It won the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2001.

For the director and his production team, cinema is a powerful platform for highlighting Indigenous languages and cultures.

Discovering Inuit shamanism

Through the main character’s quest, the director hopes to make the Inuit proud of their spiritual traditions by putting shamanism at the heart of his movie.

“In the Inuit culture long before the Europeans came, we have heard stories of how they would heal the sick, in the time of Shamans and helping spirits that rule the land, in the land of sky goddess, land goddess and the sea goddess,” explains director Zacharias Kunuk in a press release.

The animated short film, which is primarily aimed at children, is inspired by an Inuit myth from northern Baffin Island. It tells the story of a young shaman in the making who faces her first spiritual journey.

Still from Angakakusajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice (Courtesy of Taqqut Productions, Kingulliit Productions)

She must meet with Kannaaluk (The One Below, in Inuktitut), also known as Sedna, the goddess of marine mammals, to find out why a member of the neighboring community has become ill.

Facing dark spirits and physical challenges, the young shaman must trust the teachings of her grandmother and mentor, Ningiuq Angakkuq, and learn to control her fears.

“This film is based on a story I heard in 1980 from an elder woman named Niviatiaq, adds M. Kunuk. I was interviewing her and her husband about shamanism in our Amittuq region around Igloolik, and she told me this story of how shamans would make trips to the underworld to heal the sick or find answers about a taboo that had been broken.”

“This incredible story of journeying to the underworld has stayed in my mind ever since.”

Zacharias Kunuk, director

The goal of the film is to engage a contemporary audience while ensuring the story’s authenticity is preserved. The authors want to transport the audience to another place and time in the world, and seamlessly carry them into the spirit world of Inuit traditional beliefs.

The official list of Oscar nominations is to be announced on Feb. 8.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Inuit artists in their own words, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Nunavut children’s books translated for circulation in Greenland’s schools, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Budget cuts threaten international Sámi language cooperation, Yle News

Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Can cross-border cooperation decolonize Sami language education?, Eye on the Arctic 

United States: Inuit leaders applaud UN move to designate International Decade of Indigenous, Eye on the Arctic

Mathiew Leiser, Eye on the Arctic

Né dans le sud de la France d'une mère anglaise et d'un père français, Mathiew Leiser a parcouru le monde dès son plus jeune âge. Après des études de journalisme international à Londres, il a rapidement acquis différentes compétences journalistiques en travaillant comme journaliste indépendant dans divers médias. De la BBC à l'Agence France Presse en passant par l'agence d'UGC Newsflare, Mathiew a acquis de l'expérience dans différents domaines du journalisme. En 2019, il décide de s'installer à Montréal pour affronter les hivers rigoureux et profiter des beaux étés mais surtout développer son journalisme. Il a rapidement intégré Radio Canada International où il s'efforce de donner le meilleur de lui-même au sein des différentes équipes.

9 thoughts on “Inuit short film makes the Oscars short list

  • Saturday, December 25, 2021 at 11:03

    where can we find the movie to buy and watch?

  • Saturday, December 25, 2021 at 18:48

    It would be wonderful to see this short film win an Oscar. It’s time the Indigenous people of this continent be recognized for their talent and contribution to all people.

  • Sunday, December 26, 2021 at 17:16

    Sounds Epic!!!!!

  • Tuesday, August 2, 2022 at 10:30

    It’s time the indigenous humans of this continent be identified for their talent and contribution to every person.

  • Saturday, February 4, 2023 at 17:42

    I knew it would be you directing Zacharias! You do greta work. Keep it going.
    I know you’ll win.

  • Saturday, February 4, 2023 at 19:04

    Yes, I want to watch and share this film with my grandchildren. I also want to know how to pronounce the title, and other words that are not in my language. How might I find out how to do that? Thanking you in advance…


  • Tuesday, February 7, 2023 at 17:02

    My grandmother Molly Agoateak a Shaman would have been happy about this short film. She told me many stories. Once I went to visit with her and my grandfather. I was surrounded by elders talking about Shamanism. My grandmother was very strong. The men said if they were fighting, they would fight in dreams and my grandmother flew over the men or women..the men or women would drop, that meant she won the fight and they would back off making her the strong and wisest of them all.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *