Zacharias Kunuk’s first feature film, Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)took audiences by storm and won many awards, including the prestigious Caméra d’Or at the 2001 Festival de Cannes and the Best Canadian Film award at the Toronto International Film Festival®. The lyricism and artistry of the truly innovative Atanarjuat is matched if not surpassed in Kunuk’s follow-up (co-directed with Norman Cohn), The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, Opening Night Gala of the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.
Destined to be equally venerated for its cinematic, aesthetic and cultural significance, the film veers away from mythical storytelling into more historical terrain. Set in 1922 Igoolik, it tells the story of one of the last shamans and his daughter as they struggle to find a balance between their shamatic traditions and the influence of Christianity that is infiltrating their land. Knud Johan Victor Rasmussen, born in Greenland in 1879, was the first person to cross the Northwest Passage by dogsled, and it is through this historical figure that the class between civilizations is related in the film.