Let there be light

Daniela Vega stars as a trans woman living her life as a waitress and aspiring singer in the Chilean film A Fantastic Woman

The 2018 Available Light Film Festival (ALFF) features a strong Indigenous presence in this year’s films – and in the audience, with more than 40 guests attending from Outside.

The weeklong event is put together by the Yukon Film Society and will feature a variety of films catering to many different tastes and a number of key events. Over those nine days, dramas, comedies, horror and Hollywood films will all be shown, as well as a number of art installations and events catering to filmmakers.

The featured Indigenous films are the key feature to this year’s event according to organizers Vivian Belik and Erin Corbett.

“There is a strong focus on Indigenous films this year,” Belik said. “We have quite a few that are exciting, including two parts of the five-part series Rise: Standing Rock, and Incident at Restigouche.

Ajuawak Kapashesit stars in Stephen Campanelli’s Indian Horse, adapted from Richard Wagamese’s award-winning novel that explores the the dark history and legacy of residential schools in Canada

Ajuawak Kapashesit stars in Stephen Campanelli’s Indian Horse, adapted from Richard Wagamese’s award-winning novel that explores the dark history and legacy of residential schools in Canada
“Indian Horse,
which I’m really looking forward to, had a great reception at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). And Free Country is a phenomenal old country western that looks at aborigines in Australia.”

The theme extends to this year’s keynote speaker, Indigenous critic Jesse Wente, who has spoken extensively against cultural appropriation, including an emotional interview last May with CBC Radio Toronto’s show Metro Morning. Wente will speak on Saturday, February 3 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC) as part of the first day of events.

Following Wente’s keynote address, Vuntut Gwitchin artist Jeneen Frei Njootli, who currently lives in Vancouver, but hails from Old Crow, will present her artwork and short film. Frei Njootli was selected as part of the Canada 150 project for her work that includes a variety of creations.

“Dog blankets were a traditional handcrafted item for dog sleds,” Corbett said. “(Frei Njootli) has created Ski-Doo blankets to reflect the changing traditions of traveling by skidoo. She also creates microphones by pulling sound out of different objects that are special to her, like antlers, beadwork and a saw. It’s a great look at contemporary First Nation artwork.”

She will be followed by Indigenous animated filmmaker Amanda Strong. “She does shorts,” Corbett said. “But she’s been working with Jeneen (Frei Njootli) to cross-pollinate their art and we’re excited to see what they have for us.”

Also taking place on Saturday, a Virtual Reality installation that premiered at TIFF will be on display at the KDCC from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Five Indigenous artists collaborated to set their art in the year 2167 and predict what Canada will look like 150 years into the future. The display is free to explore and will also be setup at the Yukon Arts Centre on Sunday, February 4.

While the films and installation at the KDCC on February 3 kick off the event, the opening ceremony and gala will be held on February 4 at the Yukon Arts Centre. Yukoners who follow Yellowknife-born poet Shane Koyczan will be particularly interested in the gala. Koyczan will be in attendance for the debut of Shut Up and Say Something, a Melanie Wood film that explores his relationship with his father.

“His father is coming for the opening,” Belik said. “It’s a beautiful story that builds to an ending with his family.”

Shut and Say Something debuts at the Available Light Film Festival and explores Shane Koyczan’s relationship with his father

Shut Up and Say Something will be preceded by Yukon filmmaker Kerry Barber’s short documentary, Dear Hatetts.

Other highlights to watch out for during the week include a video and sound installation called The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Life: or how to be smarter, happier, and better without trying at all, by Whitehorse-based Selene Vakharia, in collaboration with Nunavut artist Kieran Oudshroon. The installation will be on display at the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery Feb. 4 to 22.

“(Vakharia) has been working with (Oudshroon) collecting stories about dealing with winter and surviving depression,” Corbett said. “They will be live-mapping (laying out the installation) on Feb. 4 and people are welcome to come watch.”

Films that the organizers noted include the zombie film Les Affamés (The Ravenous) from Quebec filmmaker Robin Aubert, which won Best Canadian Feature Film at the TIFF. It will be shown Friday, Feb. 9 at 10 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Penelope Cruz fans can see her in The Queen of Spain (La reina de España), a caper film set in ’50s era Spain.

Nuclear fusion and energy experts will be interested in Let There Be Light, by Mila Aung-Thwin. Nuclear fusion has been a long sought after, clean and sustainable energy source. “The film focuses on a project on a nuclear fusion reactor in France,” Belik explained.

Ruben Ostlund’s The Square is Swedish film that won the Palme D’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, was featured at TIFF, and is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It will screen on Feb 9 at 7 p.m.

And fans of big Hollywood films can have a chance to catch the Disaster Artist, starring James and Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor and Alison Brie. The film is based on the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult-classic disasterpiece The Room. (Ed. Note: Popcorn Wisdom has a review of The Room in this week’s What’s Up Yukon on page 4)

The films aren’t the only events taking place during ALFF 2018. Highlights of the industry-focused events include a masterclass on producing documentaries taught by award-winning producer, director and editor Mila Aung-Thwin on Feb. 7, a seminar on producing and directing science documentaries for CBC’s Nature of Things by Toronto-based producer Andrew Gregg, and a workshop with James Swirsky on the case study of Indie Game: The Movie from its beginnings to the Sundance Film Festival and on to widespread distribution.

The industry-focused ALFF Pitch Event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. While the intent is to help train Yukon film industry professionals, the event is entertaining and open to the public.

“We had about 70 people participate last year,” Belik said. “Six teams go head to head and pitch our jury on their film ideas. A cash prize is at stake and the teams each get 7 minutes to convince the juries that they have the best film idea. Entrance is free and the public is invited to come watch people make their pitches.”

The 2018 ALFF has a film for everyone and a number of exhibitions around town.
For the full schedule, tickets or more information visit their website, YukonFilmSociety.com/ALFF.

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