Isuma.tv goes live from Iqaluit for National Aboriginal Day

Since Isuma.tv launched about six months ago, the brainchild of filmmaking duo Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, it's built an online community that touches indigenous people around the world.

Since Isuma.tv  launched about six months ago, the brainchild of filmmaking duo Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, it's built an online community that touches indigenous people around the world.

The video-sharing website is the first of its kind — a sort of YouTube dedicated to bringing Aboriginal films and videos to a global audience.

This weekend, on National Aboriginal Day, the site hopes to accomplish another first — the first live webcast from Iqaluit.

It will bring the Alianait Arts Festival in Nunavut to the rest of the North and to the rest of Canada for the first time.

The festival features performances by Colin Adjun, Dave Bidini, Les 7 doigts de la main and Gjoa Band.

Although the technology is new to many in the North, Kunuk said the idea of the concert being broadcast from Iqaluit is being greeted with excitement. "If we can do that, we can do that from anywhere in the world," he told CBC News.

"I'm surprised that we're doing it first," Kunuk said of himself and his partner Cohn, who made the award-winning film Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner).

"New technology never crossed by mind because I was born on the land and came to Igloolik — which was a bigger community,  to where they have stores and health centres. To dream that one day we will do this never crossed my mind."

Cohn said there are enormous challenges to an online broadcast from Canada's North because of the lack of broadband access necessary to carry video over the internet.

"Everyone knows, especially in the media industry that doing anything in the North is going to be twice as difficult as it would be anywhere else," Cohn said. "These issues are magnified by disparity in broadband access between what exists where you are in Toronto and what exists in Iqaluit, much less in a remote community like Igloolik."

Cohn said he's not surprised at the global interest in the site, which sees videos submitted by people in Mexico and other countries with indigenous populations, as well as Canada's North.

"I think that one of the ways people have been disempowered over the last 100 years is by being so remote that they don't have the ability to communicate their common problems and common solutions among themselves," he said.

"The internet is an amazing tool for making people feel you're not alone and I think indigenous people who have a lot to say about 21st century issues — global warming, climate change, human rights, globalization — these are taking place in indigenous communities."

He said the internet has the power to bring events to the North as never before, such as the live-streaming of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology to First Nations people.

"I think it's a watershed moment, especially in the context of the prime minister's watershed moment last week apologizing essentially for assimilation policies of eliminating Aboriginal and Inuit languages and cultures through the residential schools," Cohn said.

The internet has the potential to allow an explosion of creativity in those same indigenous cultures, he said.

Already the content ranges from amateur zombie flicks to hard-hitting political pieces to personal documentaries to aboriginal hip hop.

Kunuk says improvements in technology are making it easier to work in video in the North and Isuma.tv welcomes new artists.

"Up here, we started that we never could even point the camera at the sun. Now we can with digital," he said.

"In the wintertime, I'm lucky if I get 10 minutes of video because my camera freezes. Technology [today] is getting smaller and I could now have it inside my parka. It's more and more available to anyone who wants and can with little video cameras make little documentaries and send it to us and we'll put it on the website."

Isuma.tv  will have live webcasts from the Alianait Arts Festival in Iqaluit this weekend.

With files from CBC Radio's Q