Dead North film festival organizers Jay Bulckaert, left, and Pablo Saravanja. Bulckaert wants 10 films to be screened internationally. The annual film festival starts on Feb. 27 at Yellowknifeճ Capitol Theatre. (Pat Kane/Submitted)

Dead North festival is raising the bar for Northern genre filmmaking, president says

Three films from the Yukon were submitted this year

A “zombear,” a ghost in a diner, a tree that seeks revenge on humanity — these are films that will be flicked across screens at the Dead North film festival this year, and some could be destined for the world stage.

“A lot of these films are just insane,” said president Jay Bulckaert. “One of the youth films is about how you need to eat the carrots off of the noses of snowmen otherwise they grow up to attack you because they’re infected by arsenic due to Giant Mine here in town.”

The festival, which occurs between Feb. 27 and March 1 at Yellowknife’s Capitol Theatre, has a record number of entries this year at 46. Filmmakers are located in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Sweden and the Yukon (there are three films from Dawson City).

The festival has something called HyperBorea, where people take part in a free, two-day workshop. Talent from the Canadian genre film industry are going to sit-in and help critique a select number of films in order to finesse them, the objective being to launch some of them internationally.

Dead North film festival organizers Jay Bulckaert, left, and Pablo Saravanja. The annual film festival starts on Feb. 27 at Yellowknifeճ Capitol Theatre. (Pat Kane/Submitted)

“I wanna see 10 killer films be delivered to the genre film market around the world,” Bulckaert said. “People have worked hard for months for no money. What we can do in return is provide the best opportunities we can possibly think of to help them take it even further.

“You always want people to come and have a lot of fun and just have their minds blown. Our main goal is to keep creating a more and more robust Northern film industry. The point of Dead North is to create unique, bold and visionary films, but also to raise the bar of those films. We’re playing to win here. The train’s on the tracks.”

The majority of works submitted this year are made by new filmmakers — as much as 70 per cent.

“Just to see the level of creativity and talent that people have, the hard work that has gone in behind the scenes — I mean, you can tell because of the design, the wardrobe, the makeup and the special effects,” Bulckaert said. “That all took a lot of time for people to figure out and people have nailed it this year.”

Bulckaert added that the level of professionalism has increased.

“I think we’re doing a good job as a festival, really paying attention to the filmmakers this year. When they submit a script, we give them feedback and we’re here when they have questions or concerns. I think a lot of people took advantage of those things and care. They really took care of their writing. I think this year we really hammered that home.”

The kids are all right. The festival doesn’t only showcase adults’ work. There are seven films made by youth.

“I gotta say they’re on par with a lot of the films made by adults,” Bulckaert said. “They’re killin’ it.”

There are more ensemble films, too, this year, with heavy dialogue, a difficult feat to pull off, Bulckaert said.

As a whole, though, many filmmakers are pushing the envelope, venturing away from slasher flicks, which the festival has traditionally been associated with. Parameters have been expanded to include sci-fi, fantasy — even some more dramatic works are now part of it.

“Now, it’s just getting into surreal, strange things, but there are a few films this year that are much more serious, which I think is great,” Bulckaert said.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Film industry

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