Upwards of 1,500 film lovers will be flowing into Dawson City during the Easter long weekend to soak up a non-stop extravaganza of short films. The Dawson City International Short Film Festival (DCISFF) features a series of films as short as one minute, each one being a window into the minds of filmmakers from around the world.
The weekend is divided into screenings with categories such as Yukon and Beyond, At the Confluence and Strange Things Done. Also included are special events, panel discussions, meet-and-greets and workshops.
The festival originally started as a project of the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) and a few creative film enthusiasts from the Dawson community.
Film festival producer Dan Sokolowski has been organizing it since 2007. He starts the process in October by inviting the public to screen submissions for next year’s festival. The selections group this year had more than 400 entries to view, but only 110 ended up making the cut.
Of the films showings this year, 40 are from the Yukon.
Lulu Keating, a local filmmaker and former producer of the film festival, has entered two films. She is opening the festival on Thursday night with her feature film, Lucille’s Ball. Keating started the script in 2008 while lying down for three months, healing from a broken back.
“I’m excited to show my film to the community who suffered through this with me and supported me,” says Keating. “For long periods of time while I was writing the script, there was a sign on my front door that said: rabid writer, enter at own risk.”
Keating will also be closing the festival with, Her Next Plan, a film she made as a follow-up to her successful Her Man Plan in 2010.
Brian Lye, originally from Vancouver, has a film in this year’s festival titled, Peach Juice. He is one of two filmmakers in residence, staying in Dawson from March 5 to April 12.
Lye had always wanted to come north, and after having two films in last year’s festival, he decided to apply for the residency this year to coincide with the festival itself. While he is here, he is doing short animation and is also planning to shoot a small selection of short films.
“I’m always inspired to get to know a place by living there,” he says. “It provides inspiration to make my films — that’s the benefit of coming to a place like this.”
Lye has previously lived in Prague, Japan and Uganda. Here in Dawson, he has found lots of inspiration with the contemporary street scenes, as well as the history, landscape and weather.
During the festival, he and fellow filmmaker in residence Christina Battle, will offer a presentation and discussion of their films.
Some filmmakers end up wearing more than one hat. For eight years, Karen MacKay, who lives in Ottawa during the summer and Dawson in the winter, has been offering her time to the DCISFF, not only by entering films, but also by volunteering.
Every year, as soon as she arrives in Dawson, she joins up with the festival selection group, coming out twice a week to help choose next year’s films. During the festival itself, she becomes the front of house manager, rounding up at least 50 volunteers who in turn offer 132 hours of their own time.
“I usually start carrying the schedule around two weeks before festival and jump on people I meet in the street,” says MacKay.
MacKay also has a film in the festival this year, titled Launching of the George Black Ferry. “Even though I’m not an artist, I feel more involved with the arts by being involved in the film festival,” she says. “It’s great to have a Yukon section of the festival… it gives people like me a chance to enter, even though they may not want to be a professional.”
Dan Sokolowski agrees.
“Yukon filmmakers get to see their films projected with others from around the world — it’s a learning experience,” he says.
Other events during the weekend include a one-minute film challenge, a street barbecue, and for the first time, the Cold Cuts Video Festival, which is an exhibition of video works by contemporary Canadian artists.
The Dawson City International Film Festival takes place March 28 to 31 with films and events at ODD Fellows Hall, Yukon School of Visual Arts (SOVA) and Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre.
For a schedule of screenings, go to www.DawsonFilmFest.com and for more information, contact the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture at 867-993-5005.
The Longest of the Yukoners’ Short Films
Among the 40 short films in the festival by Yukoners, the following list is the longest of the bunch, at 10 minutes and over:
Sauer is Burning. Moira Sauer, Documentary, 10 minutes
Gordie. Traolach Ó Murchú, Documentary, 10 minutes
Martinis of the Wilderness. Max Fraser, Documentary/Fantasy, 10 minutes
The Gift. Moira Sauer, Drama 10 minutes
21st Century Bushwoman Talkin’. Sally Wright & JP Pinard, Documentary, 11 minutes
Edziza. Lee Carruthers, Documentary, 17 minutes
Her Next Plan. Lulu Keating, Drama, 23 minutes
Lucille’s Ball. Lulu Keating, Feature, 83 minutes