A standing-room-only crowd packed the KIAC Ballroom for the 7 p.m. opening screening of short films at the 2017 Dawson City International Short Film Festival. The keen interest was not surprising, given the films were all by Yukoners (including several local filmmakers), several of whom were in attendance. Festival director Dan Sokolowski introduced these artists during his opening remarks, then turned the floor over to Jeanie Dendys, the new Minister of Tourism and Culture. Dendys praised KIAC’s work and payed tribute to the artistic output of the territory’s filmmakers.
Then it was time to get on with the show and, as always, the program offered a rich and varied selection of artistic visions and stories.
Everything Under the Sun is an experimental film by Yukon SOVA instructor Jeffrey Langille. Billed as “an unblinking direct gaze at the sun,” the film combines an austere video image with field recordings of bird songs, human voices, and machinery, designed to bring sound to the foreground. The piece strives to explore “slow time” and to explore the nature of attention.
The Observance of YOLO by Krista Davis is another experimental entry. The tongue-in-cheek work portrays your faithful dogs as gurus of YOLO, a spiritual practice that proposes strategies for humans to navigate their pesky complexities, such as ambition, nostalgia, and boredom. A definite crowd-pleaser in dog-centric Dawson.
Old Crow Solar Project is a documentary by Daniel Janke detailing the efforts to exploit solar energy in the remote Yukon town of Old Crow. The Old Crow Solar Project will be the largest photovoltaic installation in the Canadian north, and the film promotes how it will demonstrate the technological and economic vitality of renewable energy in the Arctic.
Dandelion Wishes by Dawson filmmaker Suzanne Crocker is a touching and amusing look at a quirky family wedding in Alberta. The film strives at “finding the joy in the conventional … and the unconventional” as the bride and groom and their parties banter while preparing for and fulfilling the big day.
Pictures Don’t Lie is a biographical documentary of legendary Yukoner J.J. Van Bibber by Lulu Keating, the grand dame of Dawson filmmakers. Using Van Bibber’s own words, and employing a treasure-trove of family photographs, the story is both moving and amusing, as the inimitable J.J. recounts what it was like growing up in the Yukon of old.
In Le Sigh, veteran DCISFF contributor Moira Sauer gives “a fresh take from a new arrival in the North,” specifically Whitehorse. Billed as a documentary, the three-minute first-person narrative is infused with a vein of humour that has become Sauer’s trademark in her short films.
Second Nature: Feral from Dawson sculptor and filmmaker Veronica Verkley combines both those skills. The film depicts an abandoned, post-apocalyptic house while it deteriorates as time, nature, and the elements take over, destroy, but ultimately transform it. One of Verkley’s previous works involved animal sculptures, and her experience with these is clearly visible throughout this poignant piece, in the woodland creatures that move through the time-lapse scene. An installation of this work and its 3D components will also be available in the KIAC Ballroom throughout DCISFF.
Underdog by Vivian Belik and Naomi Mark is a fresh take on a familiar Yukon subject, the Yukon Quest 1,00-Mile International Sled Dog Race. The film follows Japanese emigrée Yuka Honda as she prepares, physically and emotionally, to compete in the race in the wake of her mother’s death. One of the Quest’s most popular mushers, Honda meets her challenges “with an infectious spirit of determination.”
A Spark in the Dark: Tinder Users in the North by Chris and James Healey wrapped up the screening. Although billed as a documentary, the piece clearly knew how to go straight for Dawson City’s funnybone, as audience members clearly appreciated the innate humour. The film explores love and technology during the Klondike winter by following the experiences of four local Tinder users, and their perspective about the dating app’s usefulness in the far north.
— Dan Dowhal