Around the world in a weekend

This coming Easter weekend, along with their turkey dinners, Dawsonites will once again gear up for gluttony of films.

From April 17 to 20, the Dawson City International Short Film Festival (DCISFF) will be showing films of all genres from around the world.

The DCISFF started in 2000 as a Klondike Institute of Art and Culture project, along with some film enthusiasts from the Dawson community.

Producer Dan Sokolowski has been organizing the festival for eight years.

“It’s a great job,” he says. “You get to watch movies.”

The festival averages an attendance of over 1,500, showing 100 short films.

While films come from around the world, Sokolowski stresses that there is a special place for Northern films. 

“It’s always good to highlight our neighbours from circumpolar countries such as Norway, Russia, and Finland,” he says.

This year there will be an abundance of films from the Northwest Territories. And of course, Yukon films are always encouraged.

There will be two programs of one-and-a-half hours each, featuring Yukon-made films. The established artists will be featured on Friday night, and the emerging artists will be shown on Sunday afternoon. 

But DCISFF is not only about sitting and watching films. There are also workshops and seminars aimed at professional and creative development.

Workshops are rotated every year, says Sokolowski.

“Last year, the emphasis was on distribution and photo editing software; this year it’s sound,” he says. “Sound is an important part of film.”

Normand Roger from the National Film Board of Canada, and Whitehorse-based filmmaker and composer Daniel Janke will be offering a workshop entitled Sound Design and Music Composition for Sound. There will also be an on location sound recording workshop headed by David Heechenberger, a sound recordist from Vancouver.

At the same time as the film festival, there will the new Shortwave Video Challenge. Interested filmmakers entered a one-page synopsis of a proposed film on March 24, and a committee will choose three winners. These selected participants will be challenged to shoot a five-minute film during the week prior to the film festival, with the help of Ingrid Veninger, who the festival organizers are calling the “queen of do-it-yourself” filmmaking.

Veninger will mentor the three filmmakers on film planning and editing. The final videos from the challenge will be shown on the Sunday, April 20.

During the week of filming, Veninger will also be running a workshop open to the public, with the objective of teaching students that, with the latest technologies, making a low-budget, do-it-yourself film has never been easier.

And as if there aren’t enough films to go around on festival weekend, Nicole Rayburn will once again be organizing the Cold Cuts Video Festival to run simultaneously with DCISFF. Videos from this festival will run during breaks between screenings.

Also before and between screenings, the festival will serve home-cooked food to keep filmgoers’ energy up. A Sunday afternoon street barbecue, along with local band, the Naysayers, will add a festive mood to the weekend.

Film festivals are important, says Sokolowski. They give filmmakers the opportunity to present their films publicly to a broad audience – and people still enjoy getting together, watching, and talking about films. Even though organizing the festival rarely works out as he planned it, it’s just like a film, he says.

“It all works out in the end.”

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