This 2K restoration marks the 20th anniversary of Zacharias Kunuk’s landmark work, named in a 2015 TIFF poll as the greatest Canadian film ever made.
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
Twenty years ago, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner was slated to have its North American premiere at TIFF when the screening had to be postponed on September 11. This year, TIFF screens this landmark film in a new 2K version.
The first feature film written and directed by Inuit filmmakers and performed entirely in the Inuktitut language, Zacharias Kunuk’s Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner is a landmark in Canadian cinema. Based on a classic Inuit folk tale, the film is a spellbinding epic of love, revenge, betrayal, and murder in the northeastern Arctic prior to European contact. While its themes are universal, Atanarjuat is rooted in the Inuit world: the script adapted from recordings of eight Elders, showcasing Inuit actors and artists. The film became a beacon for a new worldwide wave of Indigenous filmmakers telling their own culture’s stories in their own way.
A skilled hunter renowned for his speed, Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq) loves Atuat (Sylvia Ivalu), who is promised to the camp leader’s envious son Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq). Defeating Oki in a traditional competition, Atanarjuat wins the right to marry Atuat, but he’s also deceived by Oki’s sister Puja (Lucy Tulugarjuk). Ultimately driven from his home and family, Atanarjuat vows to return to reclaim his wife and confront the evil that has haunted the camp for far too long.
Shot near Igloolik over six months, Atanarjuat was one of the first features to be made entirely on HD video — a practical choice due to the extreme cold. Using mostly natural light, Kunuk and his cinematographer Norman Cohn capture an astonishing range of visual textures. Atanarjuat won the Camera d’Or for Best First Feature at Cannes, as well as the Best Picture Genie. In a poll conducted by TIFF in 2015, Atanarjuat was named the greatest Canadian film of all time.
Digitally remastered DCP courtesy of the TIFF Film Reference Library Screening Collection