15th Dawson City International Short Film Festival filled more seats more of the time

Kit and Dan S_e

Dawson’s Kathryn Hepburn accepts the Made in the Yukon award from festival producer Dan Sokolowski.

Story & photos
by Dan Davidson

Four days and 125 films later, the 15th edition of the Dawson City International Short Film Festival flickered to a close and the lights came up on the packed ballroom at the Odd Fellows Hall.

There were a number of changes to the festival this year, not the least of which was the pre-festival showing of two longer films on Thursday night.

Current Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) artist-in-residence Michelle Latimer was on hand to show her film Alias, about the difficult lives of aspiring rap artists in Toronto.

Former Berton House writer-in-residence Charles Wilkins followed her with the film Big Blue, in which he is the central character and narrator. It is the story of 16 people and one unique rowboat on a trip from Africa to Barbados.

Another innovation was the Shortwave Video Challenge, which saw three teams of aspiring filmmakers produce five-minute films on shoestring budgets under the tutelage of Ingrid Veninger. The results were shown to enthusiastic applause at the end of the festival while the Audience Favorite ballots were being counted.

This year’s Lodestar winner was Destroyer by Kevan Funk from Alberta, in which a young hockey player struggles with his conscience after witnessing his teammates commit a sexual assault. This award featured $500 in cash and a Sterling Silver DCISFF pin handcrafted by Sharon Edmunds.

Karen McKay_e

Front-of-House manager Karen MacKay did it all with a broken collarbone.

The Audience Favorite award went Mohawk Midnight Runners by Zoe Hopkins, from Ontario. Based on a short story by Richard Van Camp, three young First Nations men decide to commemorate the death by suicide of their eccentric friend by going on naked midnight runs. The Yukon Brewing Audience Favorite award gave $500.

MITY (Made in the Yukon) award was presented to Kathryn Hepburn of Dawson for her Self-Portrait with Migraine. First prize in the this category included $1,000 cash, a $1,000 equipment rental from the Northern Film and Video Industry Association (NFVIA) and a guaranteed screening at the 2013 Tromso International Film Festival in Norway.

The MITY Emerging Artist award went to Like a River by Erin McKnight, the story of her canoe odyssey across Canada to raise awareness about mental illness. First prize included $300 in cash and $500 worth of KIAC video equipment rental.

The MITY Youth award was given to Kyle Nixon for You Don’t Know Jack, a film about his efforts to understand his autistic younger brother. The award was for $100 in cash, provided by KIAC.

The weekend featured 15 screenings, running about 90 minutes each. Most were at the ballroom, but the First Artists group of films ran at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre and another batch ran at the Confluence Gallery in the Yukon School of Visual Arts building.
Special non-visual events included a workshop on sound design for film by Normand Roger and Daniel Janke; another on location recording by David Hechenberger; and information sessions from both the Canada Council and the Yukon Film and Sound Commission.

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The Naysayers perform at the festival’s Street BBQ.

During both Saturday and Sunday the Cold Cuts Video Festival was running in the ODD Gallery on the main floor of the Odd Fellows Hall.

Prior to the awards ceremony Dawson City Arts Society (DCAS) president Peter Menzies summed up some of the activities to which KIAC (DCAS’s program arm) is connected in some way.

“Since I spoke last year four CDs have been released and another one is due in June. The radio station (CFYT-fm) has been part of a national effort of community radio stations that did documentaries about residential schools. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH) had an incredible conference – Myth and Medium – a four-day conference with artists and storytellers. Another student from Yukon SOVA has won a national award. This cluster – just 17 years old – is really doing something very special right now and I think we should pause and celebrate it.

“For us, collaboration is key,” he said, noting that the latest big project, begun last summer in collaboration with TH and Parks Canada, is to reopen the Palace Grand Theatre for a variety of regular performances during the summer season.

After the screening, festival producer Dan Sokolowski gave special — and much appreciated — thanks to Front-of-House manager Karen MacKay (whose tireless and long-standing volunteer efforts will see her receive a Public Service award at the Commissioner’s Tea in June) and to Allie Haydock and Blake Cameron, the inspired caterers who provided festival goers with delicious, and considerately healthy, eats all weekend.

Sokolowski was very happy with this year’s edition of the event, and especially pleased that with the number of seats that were full even during those post-meal times that often produce a lull in the daily attendance.

“We actually had to bring extra seats up to put along the north wall so people could sit there, so that says something.”

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