Alethea Arnaquq-Baril | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

Alethea Aggiuq Arnaquq-Baril, artist, filmmaker, producer, activist (born in Frobisher Bay, NT [now Iqaluit, NU]). Alethea Arnaquq-Baril is an Inuit filmmaker who uses film to record, preserve and share Inuit oral traditions, knowledge, language and culture. Her films promote and advocate for Inuit ways of life and highlight issues that Inuit face. She owns the Iqaluit-based independent film production company Unikkaat Studios Inc., which produces films in Inuktitut and English.

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

Early life

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril grew up in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, taking mathematics with the goal of becoming a video game designer. She became interested in storytelling and transferred to Sheridan College’s Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning near Toronto. She graduated with a degree in illustration and art fundamentals. She also completed animation training at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta. Arnaquq-Baril combined her talents and education to create animated and documentary films.

Arnaquq-Baril is a director, producer, screenwriter and animator. Her films record and preserve Inuit oral traditions, knowledge, language and culture. Her Inuit cultural documentaries and Inuktitut language productions highlight contemporary issues that Inuit face. Her films also promote and advocate for Inuit ways of life.

She co-owned Tajarniit Productions, a collaborative project with three other Inuit women filmmakers. Following that, she started her own film production company, Unikkaat Studios Inc. She is involved in the development of a new, large-scale television and film production studio in Iqaluit. Since 2019, she has been co-president of Red Marrow Media. Red Marrow Media is an Inuit owned production company founded by Arnaquq-Baril and Stacey Aglok in Iqaluit. Arnaquq-Baril is one of the creators of a new comedy series commissioned by the CBC, APTN and Netflix. The series is about a young Inuit mother in a small Arctic community.

Arnaquq-Baril is on the board of directors of the Ajjiit Nunavut Media Association, which helps the Nunavut government develop a film policy and create Nunavut films. She is also president of Ikummaksaqtiit. This organization focuses on preserving and promoting the language and culture of Inuit Elders.


Alethea Arnaquq-Baril has written, directed, animated and produced her own films. Her films have screened in Canadian and international film festivals to acclaim. She is now considered one of Canada's top woman directors.

In 2009, she released a short documentary called Inuit High Kick. Inuit High Kick shows an Inuit athlete doing a traditional high kick in slow motion. It screened at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Also, it was chosen as one of 15 short films for Telefilm Canada’s Not-Short-on-Talent program at the 2011 Cannes Festival Market.

INUIT HIGH KICK from Textile Museum of Canada on Vimeo.

In 2010, Arnaquq-Baril released Lumaajuuq: The Blind Boy and the Loon, an animated short adapted from a traditional story about revenge and the origin of the narwhal (see Inuit Traditional Stories). Also in 2010, Arnaquq-Baril released a feature-length documentary, Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos. This film examines the lost traditional art of Inuit tattooing among women. This traditional art was lost as a result of colonization (see also Colonialism in Canada). The process of making the film also inspired her to get her own traditional facial tattoos. In 2011, Arnaquq-Baril released an animated short, Seven Sins: Sloth, which highlights Western stereotypes of Inuit.

Nunavut Animation Lab: Lumaajuuq, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Aviliaq: Entwined is a 2014 dramatic short film about a lesbian couple trying to continue their relationship after one marries. It was released as part of five short films in The Embargo Project. It screened at the Vancouver Women in Film Festival in 2015.

Arnaquq-Baril’s 2016 feature-length documentary, Angry Inuk, has received the most acclaim to date. It highlights the negative impact of the North American and European Union anti-seal hunt stance and sealskin bans on Inuit ways of life (see also Sealing). It screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as other important film festivals in Canada and internationally.

Additionally, Arnaquq-Baril has produced and coproduced feature-length documentary, dramatic and short films. She contributed to James Houston: The Most Interesting Group of People You'll Ever Meet, directed by John Houston (2008); Experimental Eskimos, directed by Barry Greenwald (2009); Throat Song, directed by Miranda de Pencier (2013); Arctic Defenders, directed by John Walker (2013); The Grizzlies, directed by Miranda de Pencier (2018); and Twice Colonized, directed by Lin Alluna (2023).

Recognition and Awards

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril has been recognized for her work as an activist and filmmaker. She was named one of Canada’s most important women filmmakers at Toronto International Film Festival in 2017.

Personal Awards

  • Allan King Award for Excellence in Documentary, Documentary Guild of Canada (2010).
  • Meritorious Service Cross (civil division), Governor General of Canada (2017).

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril Receives the Meritorious Service Cross

Film awards

  • Lumaajuuq: The Blind Boy and the Loon
    • Best Canadian Short Drama, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival (2010)
  • Inuit High Kick
    • Hot Docs Official Selection, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (2011)
  • Throat Song
    • Best Live Action Short Drama shortlist, Academy Awards (2014)
  • Angry Inuk
    • Audience Choice Award, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (2016)
    • Vimeo On Demand Audience Award, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (2016)
    • Canadian Documentary Promotion Award, Telefilm Canada (2016)
    • Alanis Obomsawin Best Documentary Award, imagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival (2016)
    • Women Inmate Jury Award, Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (2016)
    • Magnus Isacsson Award, Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (2016)
    • DOC Vanguard Award, DOC Institute (2016)
    • People’s Choice Award, Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival (2017)
    • Social Justice Award, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, California (2017)