Film follows tiny plots of forgotten lore

It was a better prize than any rub-on tattoo or secret decoder ring. In the 1950s, the Quaker Oats company offered kids deeds to their own little…

It was a better prize than any rub-on tattoo or secret decoder ring.

In the 1950s, the Quaker Oats company offered kids deeds to their own little piece of land near Dawson City.

The scheme, which had kids dreaming of mining and farming their tiny parcels of the Yukon, made the cereal company tops in its market.

But 50 years later what happened to their plots?

A couple of filmmakers from Ottawa set out to find out the rest of the story and came out with a film dubbed Cereal Thriller: An investigation into the affairs of the Klondike Big Inch Land Company.

It’s billed as a “one-hour documentary celebrating puffed wheat, TV Mounties and the biggest land rush in the history of the world.”

The newly released film will make its world premiere this weekend at the Dawson City International Short Film Festival.

This year’s festival runs from April 5 to 8th at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture.

Each year since 2000, Easter weekend has brought a pack of filmmakers and film lovers to Dawson, said festival coordinator and filmmaker Dan Sokolowski.

Sokolowski came to Dawson from Kemptville, Ontario to run this year’s festival, keeping a connection to the event that began with the first fest in 2000 where he was a contributing filmmaker.

Since then, Sokolowski has been back to Dawson numerous times as a teacher and as an artist in residence at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture.

Sokolowski’s style mixes documentary with animation. He’s currently shooting a cross-Canada doc that explores how the landscape influences people.

“I guess it’s about the effect of nature on your soul,” said Sokolowski.

“If you watch the rhythms of nature and then either consciously or subconsciously try to live within those rhythms it makes you a much happier person.”

An old hand at festivals, Sokolowski has had films shown all over the world.

“They’ve travelled more than I have,” he said with a laugh.

Though he’s had films screen in larger festivals, Sokolowski prefers the more intimate events like the one in Dawson.

“They’re more friendly toward people who are just interested in film.

“You’re in the same theatre and you get introduced or you’re sitting in the pub after so you get a good idea of how your film is received.”

Mike Clattenburg, the brain behind the East Coast sitcom the Trailer Park Boys, will open the festival on Thursday at 7 p.m. with a special screening.

Then on Friday afternoon he’ll conduct a free master class on character development.

As the creator of one of the most successful series in Canada, having Clattenburg at the festival is a coup for organizers.

“He came out of a background that a lot of filmmakers here come out of — having very minimal resources at a small co-op,” said Sokolowski.

The festival continues over the weekend with films running over more than 12 hours each day.

The festival programmers picked the best short films on offer with a definite slant toward including content from the Yukon and the circumpolar region, said Sokolowski.

Local filmmaker Rachael Grantham will host a free workshop on producing short drama on Saturday afternoon.

And the current KIAC artist in residence, Stephen Foster, will give a special screening of six experimental videos on Sunday afternoon.

It ends on Sunday evening with a slate of films, including Cereal Thriller.

A festival pass costs $40 for Dawson City Art Society members and $50 for everyone else.

An individual screening runs $6 for members and $7 for the public.

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