‘How People Got Fire’ premieres at ALFF

It’s been three years, but How People Got Fire is ready for its world premiere at the Available Light Film Festival.

“I started calling it, ‘How People Finally Got Fire’,” says Daniel Janke with a tone of weary fun.

Janke, the writer/composer/director, is better known as a composer of contemporary music and creator of the six-part Northern Town. This is his first animated film and it has actually been a 20-year journey.

“There is this huge history to it,” says Janke. “I heard the story [the First Nations’ telling of how the clever Crow stole fire for mankind] 20 years ago.

“It started out as a radio piece, and then the stage and now film.”

The story is told through charcoal drawings by Chris Auchter.

This story is then weaved through a another story that Janke wrote about 12-year-old Trish, an introspective, talented girl in Carcross. She is drawn to Grandma Kay who tells the story of Crow to children while they sit in her kitchen, eating bannock and drinking tea.

This modern-day narrative is told through rotoscoping (animation traced from live-action), by Jay White.

The stories parallel each other as they weave – a fire burns on Grandma Kay’s stove and Crow seeks fire while the passion for storytelling burns within Grandma Kay.

Indeed, Grandma Kay is based on Elder Kitty Smith, of the Smith family of Kwanlin Dun First Nation, who has told the story of Crow to generations of her people.

“This was a team film,” says Janke, hoping that head-animators Auchter and White get the recognition they deserve.Janke wrote the score for the film and recorded half of it in Toronto, but he also worked with guitarist Jordy Walker here in Whitehorse.

And there are others on this team, too, including the Carcross-Tagish people.

“The story is set in Carcross-Tagish,” says Janke. “It is a beautiful place to shoot.

“I’ve known Carcross-Tagish people for years.”

And, technically, Janke says the world premiere will be in Carcross-Tagish as the film was shown to cast and crew the night before it opens the ALFF Wednesday night, Feb. 18, at 9 p.m., at the Yukon Arts Centre.

The second showing will be Saturday, Feb. 21, during an Animation for Kids event starting at 10:30 a.m.

From here, How People Got Fire will go to Winnipeg in March for the Freeze Frame Festival, a children’s film festival.

“I never thought of it as a children’s film,” says Janke. “But it is.

“I guess I am too close to it.

“I see it as a ‘people’ film.”

The National Film Board is promoting the film and it will soon be available in French.

“This is our home release,” says Janke, “and then we send it off around the world and hope it does well.”

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