Dan Sokolowski shows off a history of Film Fest trophies, holding the latest version. The trophies are traditionally constructed of wire, bits of metal, duct tape and wood, those essentials of the short filmmaker’s craft

After a few months of working at home, Dan Sokolowski is finally back in his southeast corner space at the KIAC (or Dënäkär Zho) Building. There, he’s busy downloading videos for this year’s late version of the 2020 Dawson City International Short Film Festival, which will take place over two weekends in October.

Last Easter Weekend would have been the 20th edition of the festival, but COVID-19 made it impossible to even consider packing multiple dozens of film-lovers into the second floor ballroom for three days of showings. Instead, some weeks before the festival would have happened, Sokolowski halted the lengthy process of acquiring the viewing copies he would have needed. He’s now happy to announce that the festival will take place from Friday, Oct. 2 to Sunday, Oct. 4, and again from Friday, Oct. 9 to Sunday, Oct. 11. It will also include live showings, though capacity will be limited to 40 people (a third of the regular 120 seats) and tickets will have to be purchased online, in advance. The seating arrangement and use of masks was tested in late August with a two-night showing of Suzanne Crocker’s documentary, First We Eat.

There will be several screenings on Friday evening, with matinee and evening showings on Saturday and Sunday.
Sokolowski’s colour-coded screening notes, which list the 71 films, are still fastened to the doors of the cupboard behind his desk, but he says that’s going to have to be rearranged a bit. A full program will be posted online at the festival’s new website (DawsonFilmFest.com) in a couple of weeks. The two weekends will not have identical programs.

“We will spread the 71 films over the two weekends. Also, we may repeat shows later on in October and November if there are some popular ones. (i.e. Yukon films),” Sokolowski said.

It’s not certain whether workshops and panel discussions will be part of the program, but KIAC is trying to figure out how to adapt a current trend and manage to have an outdoor drive-in theatre type of showing, with people sitting comfortably in their vehicles and hearing the sound via a radio broadcast. Because KIAC is doing what Sokolowski refers to as a “soft re-opening” the organization is less concerned with drawing visitors to town for any of its events and focussing more on events for locals.
There was some thought about doing the festival online, but Sokolowski says he has checked with other film festivals and found that the reception for that option has been poor.

“People are kind of ZOOM’d out and ready to come out and do things, albeit safely.”
Besides, KIAC had acquired a new projector and upgraded its sound equipment in time for Easter Weekend, and he’s dying to show it off to the world.

Aside from that, Sokolowski has already begun looking at material for the 2021 festival and it would be nice to completely put this one to bed before the serious work on the next one has to gear up.

Dawson City International Short Film Festival celebrates two decades of short films