The Hordes Will Gorge on Film

The roar of the sand grinder is enough to give anyone a headache. But Dan Sokolowski, producer of the Dawson City International Short Film Festival, likes the sound.

The sanding of the new ballroom floorboards is the second last step. After that is the varnishing and – fingers crossed – the ballroom will be ready to for the hordes who come to gorge on films April 9 to 12.

However joyful a sound, Sokolowski agrees to meet over beer at the Eldorado Hotel.

This is a big year for the Dawson Film Festival: Number 10. Sokolowski is relieved that the biggest complaint is that sitting in the same chairs for 10 programs of films gets uncomfortable.

Two afternoon screenings will take place at Diamond Tooth Gerties on the Saturday afternoon. First Nations Films, programmed throughout the weekend, receive an additional screening at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre. Sokolowski will see if attendance is helped or hurt by this year’s programming innovations.

This is the Little Festival that Could: attendance has been consistently high over the years: the 160-seat ballroom is often full to capacity. Compared to a festival I recently attended in Vancouver, where several audiences were only 20 people, Dawson’s numbers are phenomenal.

As always, the focus of this festival is less on urban zones, more on small communities. There are more Yukon films than ever before.

The Other North program features films from circumpolar nations. Films on Environment issues figure prominent. Prominent guests will be journeying to Dawson from Big Crow and Halifax and points in between.

Sokolowski doesn’t take credit for the films selected from the 300 entries: a Selection Committee of over 30 people weighed in on what they thought.

“The variety of subject matter and the diverse treatments have made for an interesting year: everything from a 90-year-old grandmother in Iran to a man and his sheep in England. There’s a historical drama about Russian police asking people to shoot escaped prisoners; there’s a short about young girls in the Second World War in Finland who herd cows into forests to save them from Russians. These are cold and harsh, but somehow beautiful films,” says Sokolowski.

This year, the Festival is going to the dogs. Three odd little dog films are in the last program. None have all-too-familiar shots of mushing dog teams. One of these is a short film Sokolowski saw at the Durham Film Festival last summer.

Close and Low is described thus: An ordinary dog effortlessly contains the most admirable human traits, much to the sorrow of one sad little man. The director, Jeff Winch, will be travelling from Ontario for the screening.

Another dog film, called Dog, is from Iceland.

Lulu Keating (ahem, me) and Karen Hines made the third dog film, Dog = God. All three are presented in the last show on Sunday, The Big Finish.

Even this year’s Public Service Announcement winner, by Ben Rudis and Joe McCann, is about two telepathic dogs talking to each other. It is playing on CBC North, promoting the festival.

All other entries will be shown as Signal Films before programs of films.

Sokolowski’s pronouncement as Producer of the Festival is a quote from Alfred Hitchcock: “The length of a ?lm should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”

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