Caffeinated cinema with a northern twist

Very few documentaries are processed using a mixture of instant coffee, vitamin C and washing soda. But if you're in Old Crow, you use what's available.

Very few documentaries are processed using a mixture of instant coffee, vitamin C and washing soda.

But if you’re in Old Crow, you use what’s available.

Back in September a team of filmmakers invited residents to use Super 8 cameras, the ones commonly used to shoot home videos in the 1950s and 60s, to capture an hour of their day.

The 8-millimetre film, which is now widely viewed as obsolete, was then processed using the simple ingredients and projected onto a wall for digitization.

That’s how residents created Sound We See: an Old Crow village symphony, a film that chronicles 24 hours in the life of the remote community.

Each hour of footage was edited down to one minute, and the result is a 24-minute film that will be screened at the upcoming Dawson City International Short Film Festival.

Lisa Nielsen, a Vancouver-based filmmaker who has been visiting Old Crow since 2008, got the idea for the film from colleagues in Los Angeles who had made similar documentaries in Vietnam, Holland and India.

She said she enjoyed seeing people from all ages come together to work on the film.

“It was fun to be able to incorporate all ages and all availabilities,” she said.

“If people only had an hour, they could still participate. Six-year-olds can’t make a film but they can grab a camera and have fun shooting.”

September, it turns out, is a busy month in Old Crow.

The Porcupine caribou herd is passing through on its way to its wintering range, and residents such as Vickie Josie are busy hanging dry meat.

Josie captured this with her camera, and also filmed her dogs and her salmon cache.

“It really captures the coolness that is Old Crow,” Nielsen said of the grainy footage.

Edward Kyikavichik lent a hand at an opportune moment, just as filmmakers were lamenting they couldn’t find any local artists. Kyikavichik ended up documenting his mother’s beadwork and also helped out with the film processing, which took place in a rather improvised dark room.

“There we were in the women’s washroom at the John Tizya Centre, sitting in the dark, processing film and sharing stories,” Nielsen said.

Lisa Marr, who runs the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles, tried an experimental technique of developing film using only cranberries.

The fruit is a staple ingredient in Gwich’in kitchen recipes.

As long as you have something acidic, you can process film, Nielsen said.

Despite a few setbacks, it eventually worked.

“The idea is that you can work with the materials you have, wherever you are,” she said.

Instead of music for the soundtrack, residents were recorded in their native Gwich’in language.

Some are fluent while others are first-time speakers.

Nielsen said she especially enjoyed watching elders listen to the younger ones speak.

The film has already screened at the Tromso International Film Festival in Norway.

Nielsen hopes it’ll be picked up by the Montreal First People’s Festival in July and August, too.

“I think it captures a quality of Old Crow that feels very authentic,” she said.

Running from April 2-5, the 16th Dawson City International Film Festival is screening almost 100 films, most of them Canadian productions.

Suzanne Crocker’s award-winning documentary All The Time in The World, about spending nine months with her family in a remote cabin, is screening tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and again at 9:30 p.m.

Jim Robb’s Yukon, a 10-minute film about one of the territory’s most influential artists, will screen Friday at 7 p.m., part of the Yukon and Beyond series.

Aaron Floresco’s Fred Heads, a 15-minute documentary about iconic children’s performer Fred Penner, screens on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Sunday features an artists-in-residence screening and Q&A session with filmmakers Kyle Whitehead and Matthew Rankin at 3:30 p.m.

The festival closes out with a performance from the Lemon Bucket Orkestra at the Odd Fellows Ballroom at 9:30 p.m.

The full schedule for the 2015 DCISFF can be found at

Contact Myles Dolphin at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months


Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Ivan, centre, and Tennette Dechkoff, right, stop to chat with a friend on Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. Starting Dec. 1 masks will be mandatory in public spaces across the Yukon in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Most Read