The Filmmakers

History in the (film)making: Zacharias Kunuk and Natar Ungalaaq on the legacy of 'Atanarjuat'

The director and star of the monumental and critically acclaimed film open up on the latest episode of The Filmmakers.

The director and star of the acclaimed film open up on the latest episode of The Filmmakers

The director and star of the award-winning film sat down with The Filmmakers to look back at their collaboration. 10:02

16 years ago, Zacharias Kunuk made history several times over with his film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. It was the first feature film ever in the Inuktitut language, the first Indigenous film submitted by Canada to the Academy Awards and the first — and, to this day, only — Canadian film to win the Camera d'Or for best first feature at the Cannes Film festival.

Kunuk and the fast runner himself Natar Ungalaaq sat down on the latest episode of The Filmmakers to discuss the movie and its legacy as a landmark for Indigenous filmmaking and one of the most celebrated Canadian films of all time. They also looked back to that fateful day in May 2011 when it won the Camera d'Or.

"I thought it was normal," Kunuk laughs. "I thought every Canadian came to Cannes and won something, that that's just part of the flow. That's what I thought."

Zacharias Kunuk and Natar Ungalaaq. (CBC Arts)

Ungalaaq was in his office in Igoolik when Kunuk called him to let him know about the prize.

"'We won,'" Ungalaaq recalls Kunuk saying. "And I said, 'What are we trying to win?' And then Zach said, 'We won, the film...in Cannes!' And I said, 'Oh, OK!' [laughs] I wasn't really focused on trying to win and all that."

Watch Kunuk and Ungalaaq's interview in the above video — and the entire Atanarjuat episode of The Filmmakers here

The Filmmakers airs this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. (9 NT) on CBC Television, or stream it at cbc.ca/watch. After the episode, stick around to see this week's feature presentation, Manfactured Landscapes.​