Film festival ready to get Violent

En ung kvinnes drom, or "a young woman's dream." That is the synopsis for Violent, according to Vancouver-based director and musician Andrew Huculiak, whose film is screening at the Available Light Film Festival.

En ung kvinnes drom, or “a young woman’s dream.”

That is the synopsis for Violent, according to Vancouver-based director and musician Andrew Huculiak, whose film is screening at the Available Light Film Festival on Feb. 11.

If you don’t speak Norwegian, that’s alright. Neither does Huculiak.

That didn’t stop him and a few friends from travelling to the Scandinavian country in October 2012 to make an existentialist film in a language they couldn’t understand.

In fact, it was one of the main driving forces behind the decision to go there.

“We had looked at going to Japan or Mexico but settled on Norway partially because of the contact we have there and because of the style of film we wanted to shoot,” the 22-year-old said.

“There is a lot of dark comedy in the film so we realized that it was becoming a lot more like a Scandinavian film than anything else. We wanted to see if it would work to make a movie in a language none of us could understand.”

Famous for its dramatic landscapes, Norway was the perfect spot to shoot a film where the major themes revolved around religion and catastrophe.

Posters in Bergen, Norway were put up and local theatre actors came out to audition for roles in the film.

Dagny Johnsen was cast in the lead role of Dagny, a young woman who moves to Germany to escape her small-town life.

Throughout the film she recalls the memories of five people who loved her the most, all while experiencing a catastrophic event.

In a sense, the title of the movie refers to abrupt changes in her life.

Violent was created as a companion piece to the Vancouver band We Are The City’s album of the same name, of which Huculiak is the drummer.

In 2012, the band interrupted the recording of the album to make the film, which features an original score co-composed by band member Cayne McKenzie.

Shooting in Bergen proved a lot harder than anticipated, Huculiak said.

Working with a small budget – the film was produced for under $300,000 – meant that they couldn’t rent a vehicle or eat out.

“Everything is very expensive in Norway,” he said.

“You take the bus and it’s like $7 each time. The cheapest item at the cheapest restaurant was about $18.

“We had to carry our gear all over the place.”

But the biggest obstacle was the language barrier.

The crew had no way of knowing whether the actors had followed the script to a tee, or whether they’d improvised a line.

Actors had to trust the crew to know what it was doing, and vice versa, Huculiak said.

“We were flying by the seat of our pants because when we got there most of the lines hadn’t been written yet,” he said.

“But we could tell whether it was a bad take or not. I feel like that’s something that transcends language.”

Principal photography wrapped about a month later.

Back in Canada, post-production lasted nearly two years.

A Norwegian acquaintance helped out with translating every single scene that was shot.

“This guy Emil would hang out in our basement, where we did the editing, until really late,” Huculiak said.

“Sometimes he’d laugh, so we could tell whether a scene worked or not based on his reactions.”

Asked if he would have done anything differently, Huculiak said no.

The movie has gained critical acclaim since it was released last year.

It was screened at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and won the Best B.C. Film and Best Canada Film awards at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Huculiak said he’s already working on the screenplay for his second film.

Running from Feb. 6-15, the Available Light Film Festival is screening 25 other films, most of them Canadian productions.

On Feb. 10, acclaimed Canadian musician and recent Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagaq will perform alongside a screening of the 1922 film Nanook of the North.

Three Yukon documentaries – Ghosts of the Joe Henry, Chasms of Silence and Share the Road – will screen on Feb. 9 starting at noon.

A Nunavut documentary titled Sol, which shines a light on the issue of suicide in the territory, will be screened that evening at 5 p.m.

On Feb. 14, you can find out what it’s like to eat nothing but discarded food for six months in a documentary called Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story.

Gavin Crawford, of This Hour Has 22 Minutes fame, will join a panel for the ALFF 2015 Comedy Pitch at the Old Fire Hall on Feb. 8 at 8:30 p.m.

Yukon-based comedians such as Amelia Mehar, George Maratos, Roy Ness, Al Macleod, Susanne Hingley, Chris McNutt, Dennis Allen, Claire Ness, Hazel Venzon, and Kevin McLachlan will pitch their ideas to a live audience and guest panel.

The celebrity panel also includes Kyle Tingley (writer, This Hour Has 22 Minutes) and Michelle Daly (head of CBC Comedy).

Other events include the sixth annual Media Industry Forum, taking place from Feb. 8-11.

Guest speakers such as directors Ben Ratner, Stephane Lafleur and Maureen Bradley will connect with local industry professionals and exchange knowledge about screen-based media.

We Are the City will be performing at the Yukon Arts Centre on Feb. 12 at 8 p.m.

The full schedule for the 2015 ALFF can be found at www.alff.ca.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com