Telefilm Canada is underfire from a Canadian aboriginal distribution company seeking assistance inscreening The Journals Of Knud Rasmussen for aboriginal audiences in remote communities. Isuma Distribution Inc.(IDI), the releasing arm of Rasmussen filmmakers Zacharias Kunuk's and Norman Cohn's Igloolik IsumaProductions, has requested nearly $500,000 (C$550,000) to fund a travelingdigital projection unit that would tour Canada's far north and present the filmto audiences who have no access to cinemas.
The follow-up to Kunuk's2001 Camera d'Or-winning Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, Rasmussen is a period drama tracing the obliteration of Inuit culture in the early20th century.
The film makes its worldpremiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, a facthighlighted by Cohn in an email exchange he made public on Tuesday. Theexchange, between himself and Telefilm executive Dan Lyon, suggests theCanadian film agency is unwilling to provide the money necessary to finance aprojectionist, a projector and per diems for filmmakers or screen talent whomay travel with the picture.
Cohn, who co-directed,co-wrote and co-produced Rasmussenwith Kunuk, copied the exchange to Screen International: in one message, Cohnwrote: "The Toronto Film Festival opens September 7thwith an historic Aboriginal film that Telefilm risks being responsible for mostAboriginal Canadians, including most Inuit, being last in line to see."
He points outthat while Telefilm invested $1.8m in the production and will provide another$900,000 toward distribution costs in southern Canadian cinemas, "these cinemasexclude 80% of Canada's Aboriginal citizens". Rasmussen's Canadian distributorAlliance Atlantis' Motion Picture Distribution has agreed to let IDI handle thefilm's release in northern Canada.
Cohn's missiveto Telefilm continued with a veiled threat should action not be taken before the TIFF premiere: "[intwelve weeks] Zach and I will give a hundred interviews to national andinternational press... saying our film is made for Aboriginal audiences. Whenpeople ask if Aboriginals actually can see the film we'll tell them no, notreally: the Canadian film system, of which Telefilm is the 'quarterback,' madeno funds available to bring the film to northern Canada where most Inuit, Metisand First Nations people live..."
Telefilm did not have aspokesperson available at time of going to press.