After two years of staying close to home, the Available Light Film Fest’s programming lineup offers “a window to the world.”
“We didn’t know if people were going to come back again this year. We’re all sort of suffering some digital burnout. So it’s definitely heartening to just see the audience come back and support the festival online again,” said festival director Andrew Connors.
The festival runs from Feb. 11 to Feb. 28, and includes both online and in-person programming. The lineup includes include 38 feature films, over 60 shorts and artist talks, industry events and screenings are taking place at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and Yukon Theatre.
Connors said preparing for the festival is a year-round task. Submissions are open in the summer but typically the team begins looking at films in September. The result is a line-up of brand new films from around the world and close to home.
The feature film “Wildhood,” directed by two-spirit filmmaker Bretten Hannam, follows two brothers on a quest to find family and belonging in Mi’kma’ki. The coming-of-age story is set against the beautiful backdrop of Nova Scotia and in English and Mi’kmaq with English subtitles.
Other films created by Indigenous filmmakers in the festival include “Meneath,” an animated short where a young metis girl navigates the seven sacred teachings and the seven deadly sins, and documentary “DƏNE YI’INJETL The Scattering of Man” that looks at a hydroelectric dam that displaced members of the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation.
Connors said 40 per cent of this year’s lineup is made of Indigenous films.
“I mean, certainly, Indigenous-led cinema is a big deal for this festival,” he said. “But it’s an international program presenting points of view from all around the world — 360 degrees.”
International highlights is this year’s programming include Sundance winner “Hive (Zgjoi)” from eastern Europe and the Candian premiere of “Map of Latin American Dreams.”
“The international films are always exciting because they’re typically films that are different going to be off our audience’s radar. You can never predict what’s going to be really popular and resonate with audiences,” he said.
Films from the Yukon include documentary “Rob Is Analog” that follows Rob “radiorob” Hopkins’ quest for a CRTC licence for an over-the-air community television licence. Lulu Keating’s “Rear View” is described as “pandemic reflections at the Dawson landfill.”
Yukon-shot “Skymaster Down” tells the story of a mysterious plane that disappeared from the skies over the territory in 1950.
“One of the key roles for the Available Light Film Festival is bringing distinct Canadian movies to the screen. Whether that’s narrative films that are shot here and set in specific places – like we have one that’s set in PEI and another that said in the Annapolis Valley, and another one that’s set in the Cariboo, it’s really wonderful,” said Connors.
All in, this year’s line-up is the largest ever for the festival, with over 100 films in total.
Industry events are also taking place and being live streamed, including the eighth annual ALFF Pitch Event at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 and a talk with Canadian filmmaker Jeremy Podeswa on Feb. 17 at 5 p.m.
For the second year in a row, the film festival is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the festival was set to return to more in-person screenings, this year the omicron variant caused a change of plans.
“We had a lot of films that just kind of weren’t available to us, because we could only show them in theatre. The distributor would not give them to us online,” explained Connors. “So we increased what we were doing online.”
It’s also the first year the festival has its own headquarters for screenings – in December the Yukon Film Society took over the Yukon Theatre on Wood Street. This year most the screenings are taking place there.
Right now most screenings are limited – the theatre capacity under COVID-19 restrictions is around 25 people per show. But if restrictions lift as the festival continues, the festival will be able to quickly sell more tickets as capacity expands.
“It’s really great to have our own venue,” said Connors. “It’s a really great team that’s working on the festival – some really hardworking, smart, perceptive folks. Even though the audience isn’t there in with us in person, it still feels like a festival.”
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