Modern Yukon stories salt Dawson’s film fest

This week, five-year-old Sam Crocker will make his filmmaking debut. “He heard about the film festival and asked his mother how to make a…

This week, five-year-old Sam Crocker will make his filmmaking debut.

“He heard about the film festival and asked his mother how to make a film,” says Dawson City International Short Film Festival producer Lulu Keating.

The precocious Dawsonite’s three-minute animation, Scrooge, Sandman, Lava Man & Icicle Man, will kick off the festival this Friday at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture.

The two-day event will see hundreds flock to Dawson over the Easter weekend. It mixes workshops with world premieres.

Along with first-timers like Crocker, experienced Whitehorse filmmaker Andrew Connors will premiere his made-in-the-Yukon drama Artifacts on Friday at 9 p.m.

Connors co-wrote the script with Michael Hale and filmed it in August 2005, in Whitehorse and Keno.

It’s about a young man who comes to the Yukon and finds a mystery in his recently deceased grandfather’s storage locker.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time investigating the creative parts of Keno,” says Connors.

Keno has a rich history that’s not talked about.

“It’s a story less told, and it’s also a longer history and fuller story than the gold rush,” he says.

“It’s like an onion for me, every time I pull one back there’s another layer.”

There’s a strong showing from Yukoners this year with about half of the festival films from or about the territory, says Keating.

Also making its world premiere Friday evening is a documentary, made by Alan Black, chronicling the lives of Yukon musicians called Beautiful and Deranged: The Song of the Yukon.

The Toronto-based Black was awed by the territory’s rich music scene while up North making a different “bad” movie.

He came back in December 2004 to film Beautiful and Deranged.

“I read stats saying one in every 1,000 Canadians make their living at music, but it’s five in every 1,000 in the Yukon,” says Black in an interview from Toronto.

The film focuses its lens on a trio of Yukon musicians — Aylie Sparks, Gordie Tentrees and Michael Miller.

“Over the years I’ve seen a lot of historical gold mining pieces and nature documentaries, but there haven’t been many that describe the spirit of the Yukon,” says Black.

“There’s not an ounce of pretension, people really do what they do and live for the day.

“I’m a Toronto guy, born and raised, and I have this side of me that’s interested in going to a cabin in the woods and making movies and making music and that’s what everyone seemed to be doing up there.”

Also making its public premiere is the much-anticipated CBC miniseries Northern Town, written by Whitehorse writer Daniel Janke.

The first episode of the six-part story will show Saturday at 7 p.m.

Keating co-programmed the festival’s lineup with Joann Vriend, mixing in a dash of public input.

For six weeks, the pair screened four films a week and asked Dawsonites for advice.

“People would come in through the cold and sit here and watch films and say whether they would recommend them or not,” says Keating.

And, when choosing the festival’s flicks, the pair looked for films that delivered on all levels.

“We looked for ones that entertained us or charmed us or made us laugh,” says Keating.

And the pair programmed films that fit the festival’s mandate to screen content from the circumpolar region, First Nations and the Yukon.

The 62-film main program also represents nine countries.

There’s a little drama from Australia, a beautiful documentary from Poland about an ex-con settling back into society, a comic drama from Ireland and the list goes on and on, says Keating.

And there’s a hefty contingent of films from Scandinavia, which Keating found while attending the Tromso International Film Festival in Norway.

Plus there is a 25-film bill from first-time directors showing Sunday afternoon.

“These are filmmakers from Pelly Crossing, some youth who made a film, a couple from Whitehorse and one from Quebec,” says Keating.

Plus the festival welcomes a handful of speakers including veteran documentary filmmaker John Walker, who will also be showing a trio of films at Whitehorse’s Visitor Information Centre Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Walker will screen his films in Dawson on Thursday evening, then host a workshop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.

Dawson’s festival has been going strong for seven years; this is Keating’s second year at its helm.

Keating, a filmmaker herself, is currently scripting a feature-length drama.

It’s about an African woman who’s drawn to Canada under false pretenses, but finds a home and happiness in Dawson.

Individual screenings are $7, while $45 buys a pass to the festival. For a complete listing of films, workshops and events go to