Igloolik Isuma is perhaps the most well-known of indigenous media groups in the world, notably through the global success of their prize winning film Atanarjuat The Fast Runner (2000), the first Inuit feature film, created through their distinctive community based production process. Their most recent film (see clip), Before Tomorrow (2008, Arnait women's collective), is gathering prizes on its festival run. The group formed in 1990, turning televisual technologies into vehicles for cultural expression of Inuit lives and histories, a counterpoint to the introduction of mainstream satellite-based television into the Canadian Arctic. Headed by director Zacharias Kunuk, Isuma engages Igloolik community members while filmmaker and Isuma partner Norman Cohn leads a support team in Montreal. Frustrated by the difficulty of showing work to other Inuit communities, in 2008, they launched a groundbreaking alternative for indigenous distribution, Isuma TV, a free internet video portal for global indigenous media, available to local audiences and worldwide viewers. On May 29, 2009, Isuma will launch NITV on Isuma TV, a digital distribution project, bringing a hi-speed version of IsumaTV into remote Nunavut communities where the bandwidth is inadequate to even view YouTube. NITV allows films to be re-broadcast through local cable or low-power channels, or downloaded to digital projectors. This live webscast on Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change features Inuit climate activist and Nobel nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier. In Media Res readers with internet access can attend virtually, 7 PM, EST.
The bigger story here concerns the unanticipated possibilities presented at moments of media innovation. As Cohn explains:
"We saw the historical technological 'moment of opportunity' for the internet, the way we saw the analog video moment in 1970, and the Atanarjuat digital/film moment in 1998: the brief window in the technology of communication where marginalized users with a serious political and cultural objective, could bypass centuries of entrenched powerlessness with a serious new idea at a much higher level of visibility than usual in our top-down power-driven global politics. In 2007, internet capacity allowed us to end-run the film industry entirely and launch a video website that could take aspects of YouTube to a much higher level of thematic seriousness, and see what happens. So this is a serious experiment in the history of alternate media experiments since the early-70's, as Isuma has been from the start", helping viewers see indigenous reality from its own point of view.