A powerful film about grassroots-level punk music in a religion not traditionally open to diverse musical tastes, Islam, blends with a heartfelt, passionate documentary following a young woman with cystic fibrosis.

On the surface, these films are unrelated, but their beauty and truth have led to them being carefully handpicked for the Available Light Film Festival, which brings the big screen of documentary and film fiction culture to Whitehorse.

Running from Feb. 10 to 14, Available Light showcases the best of 2010’s locally and internationally acclaimed cinema.

Festival director Andrew Connors says he searches for films that present strong characters and a compelling story: “There are so many amazing characters and directors out there, and, when I select films for our festival, I look for powerful direction and characters.”

Connors has been involved with crafting the festival since its inception eight years ago and is responsible for selecting the films represented. “I’ve been there since the beginning, and when I choose films to bring, I run them by co-workers and staff to see if it’s what we want to display for the year.”

Available Light is presented by the Yukon Film Society and Yukon Energy Corporation.

Available Light follows trends in the film world and, the hottest development this year, is the concert and music film, both documentary and fiction. The films that follow this trend, “entwine culture, history and music,” according to Connors, and include White Stripes Under Great Northern Lights, with scenes from the White Stripes tour in LePage Park and the Yukon Arts Centre.

And there is Taqwacore: the Birth of Punk Islam, a punk rock movement inspired by a novel.

There is even a film exploring Canadian rock legend, Neil Young, The Neil Young Trunk Show, a gritty and intimate live concert by Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme.

Whitehorse audiences are warming up to film culture immersion, relates Connors: “Moving the venue to the Yukon Arts Centre has allowed us to expand and really get audiences out to as many films as they can fit in their schedules,” he says.

The five days of the festival also includes industry workshops, moderated panel discussions and question and answer sessions with film directors.

“It’s a week of exploring cinema culture with some really amazing directors and films,” says Connors.

Workshops feature master classes on directing actors and editing documentaries. Panel discussions include hot button topics like film development; financing, film licensing and distribution in Canada; and the evolution of the story and approach in documentary filmmaking.

Confirmed guests and presenters include documentary editor and director Omar Majeed of Taqwacore: the Birth of Punk Islam; beginning documentary directors Nimisha Mukerji and Phillip Lyall of 65_Red Roses; Leanne Allison of Finding Farley; and drama director Carl Bessai.

For more information and full schedule, check out the Available Light website at www.alff.ca.