The 31st Toronto International Film Festival will open on September 7, 2006 with the world premiere of Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn‘s “The Journals of Knud Rasmussen,” festival organizers announced today (Wednesday). Planners are getting a jump on scheduling this year, locking in the anticipated Canadian title in the fest’s high-profile opening slot, always used as a showcase for a new film from the country. The movie, exploring the history of the Inuit people through the eyes of a father and daughter, marks Kunuk’s follow-up to his 2001 film, “Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner),” which won the Camera D’or in Cannes and then the prize for best Canadian film at the Toronto International Film Festival. The 31st Toronto International Film Festival will continue through September 16, 2006.
“Once we saw Norm and Zach’s film, we knew that one of the most important films from and about Canada had crossed our paths,” explained festival co-director Noah Cowan, in an email exchange with indieWIRE today. “Although we still have significant work to see from major Canadian directors, the unique storytelling and aesthetics of this film as our Opening Night speaks both to our core charitable mission of fostering motion picture culture and to showcase the diversity of global filmmaking worldwide.”
In the announcement from the festival, the film (set in 1922 in Igloolik) is described as “the story of the last great Inuit shaman, Avva, and his beautiful and headstrong daughter, Apak, who lives one foot in her father’s world and the other on the verge of the future.” Continuing, the description says, “As Avva strives to keep his family together on their path into the twentieth century, where the rise of Christianity and commerce is putting a swift end to their culture, a team of Danish scientists arrives to make record of his way of life.”
“Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn have created a truly visionary work of art,” said Cowan, in a statement Wednesday. “They have again redefined the scope and visual palette of Canadian film, while telling a profound and moving story. We are proud to present the world premiere of the film, and to support the efforts of these exceptional filmmakers in their presentation of this film to indigenous communities.”
The film is a Canadian/Danish co-production from Kunuk Cohn Productions, produced by Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk, Vibeke Vogel, and Elise Lund Larsen. It stars Pakak Innukshuk, Leah Angutimarik, Neeve Uttak, Samuelie Ammaq, Abraham Ulayuruluk, Natar Ungalaaq, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Sofie Danielsen, Piuaitsoq Petersen, Jakob Cedergren, Jens Jorn Spottag, and Kim Bodnia. Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture in Canada, SF Films in Scandinavia and Isuma Distribution International Worldwide are handling distribution.
The news comes on the heels of the best picture Oscar win for Paul Haggis’ “Crash,” a film that got its start at TIFF back in 2004, where it was acquired by Lionsgate. The festival was also a North American launching pad for a number of awards season titles, including “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” and “Walk The Line.”
“The announcement of ‘The Journals of Knud Rasmussen’ as TIFF’s opening night film comes on the heels of a spectacular run for previous TIFF tittles,” explained festival director of communications Andrea Grau Clunie, in a statement to indieWIRE. “Numerous films which chose TIFF as their launch pad have recently gone on to critical and award-season success. We are thrilled to be able to announce the world premiere of ‘The Journals of Knud Rasmussen’ as we launch into another great year.”