Andrew Connors is very pleased with his 32-page program for the upcoming Available Light Film Festival.

“Last year, it was 24 pages,” says the festival’s director.

He explains that there are only slightly more films being presented this year.

The difference is in the “value-added events”.

Connors says these include panel discussions, information sessions and workshops by the films’ proponents.

After many of the films, there will be a question-and-answer period with the filmmakers. As well, there will be a two-day industry forum, Thursday and Friday, Feb. 19 and 20, and workshops on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

This year, they include Earl Hong Tai (western regional director for Telefilm Canada), who has experience in helping companies gain access to public capital markets and private equity.

And there will be Tantoo Cardinal, a world-renowned Métis actress best known for her role as Black Shawl in Dances With Wolves. She has also appeared in Loyalties, Moccasin Flats and the CBC television series, North of 60.

She will discuss the making of Mothers and Daughters along with the director, Carl Bessai.

The workshop will show the process of collaborating to create the script.

Among the filmmakers from around the world, there will be locals such as Daniel Janke, who premieres his first film project, How People Got Fire (see the story on this page).

From Carcross, Shirley McLean will discuss Tribal Journeys: Paddle to Quw’utsun, along with Duane Ghastant’ Aucoin and Gordon Loverin.

Brenda Chambers will be here, too. Originally from Haines Junction, she has carved out a successful career in North Vancouver as a producer and entrepreneur promoting Aboriginal broadcasting.

Also returning to the Yukon is David Hamilton. As a boy, he lived in Hillcrest in Whitehorse.

Today, he is both producer and executive producer of Heaven on Earth. He also produced Deepa Mehta’s Oscar-nominated Water, which appeared at ALFF in 2006.

There will be many more filmmakers in town to contribute to those 32 pages in the program.

“We grow in tiny steps each year,” says Connors of the growing roster of activities.

But, first, there are the films.

ALFF’s niche is Arctic films: “They are popular,” says Connors. “A guaranteed good house.

“But outside of that, we like to provide a variety of films that are out there and that includes a healthy dose of …”

Connors wants to say, “alternative films”, but he stops himself.

“Well, alternative to Hollywood, but these aren’t ‘alternative’ anymore.”

He says the Yukon Film Society showed Man On Wire at the Old Fire Hall last week as part of its Firehall Films series, yet there are five copies of it at Rogers Video.

“DVD has made all of this work so available.”

That works in the festival’s favour, too. Connors says The English Surgeon, which will be shown this year, would not have been affordable 10 years ago.

But today, the “high-quality, broadcast-quality formats” are more compact and easier to transport. And, with the high-quality projection equipment at the Yukon Arts Centre, “the experience is equal to or better than a film at the theatre.”

Still, there are two films being presented at the Qwanlin Cinema this year because they are 35-mm films.

There is also a 16-mm film, California Company Town, that is shaped in almost a square that is reminiscent of television over these past 70 years.

“It is great for its poetry and the ideas,” says Connors. “It will challenge your own sense of what a motion picture is.

“This film is an anomaly for us; usually it is straight-forward narrative documentaries.”

The Available Light Film Festival ’09 kicks off Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 5 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre with an opening reception. Then the films Passage, Slepé Iásky and How People Got Fire will be shown.

The festival continues to Sunday, Feb. 22.

To register for workshops, send an e-mail to alff@yukonfilmsociety.com or call 393-3456.

Industry forums are free and require no pre-registration.

Tickets for films are available at the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office, Arts Underground, at the door or by phone at 667-8574.

More information is available at www.yukonfilmsociety.com.