Dawson kicks off film fest

It's 4 a.m. and Diego Martin slides back into the plush, forest-green blanket slung across the couch. Final Cut is open on a laptop in front of him and he slaps the computer shut.

It’s 4 a.m. and Diego Martin slides back into the plush, forest-green blanket slung across the couch. Final Cut is open on a laptop in front of him and he slaps the computer shut.

“It’s a busy week of filming,” he says.

For Martin, Dawson City’s film festival began earlier than usual. Last Saturday he was one of three teams of Yukon filmmakers participating in the Shortwave Video Challenge, a crash course through micro-budget filmmaking with visiting filmmaker Ingrid Veninger.

For the rest of us, the 15th annual Dawson City International Film Festival officially opens on Thursday, April 17 and runs through Sunday, April 20 with a packed schedule of film screenings and workshops. In addition to this year’s line-up, the Shortwave Video Challenge and the Cold Cuts Video Festival are two events in conjunction with the festival.

Last Saturday, Veninger’s “DIY YOUR FILM” workshop discussed the elements of micro-budget filmmaking, from budgeting techniques to working with actors and running the set. This week Veninger is mentoring the three five-minute (maximum) shorts that will screen before the awards on Sunday.

An actor, writer, director and producer, Veninger’s ambitious approach to filmmaking has grabbed 10 Genie nominations and the title of DIY queen of filmmaking. She came to the Yukon en route from the Sarasota Film Festival with her latest feature, The Animal Project.

“There are not enough people that are taking the risks she is taking,” says Martin. “It’s good that she is sharing this knowledge. It’s inspiring.”

Also taking a risk, the second annual Cold Cuts Video Festival “Revel in It” looks at pop culture and mass media with through video work from contemporary Canadian and international artists. Featured artists will include Pipilotti Rist, Ryan Trecartin and Kent Monkman.

“It’s very different than the Cold Cuts we did last year, which was very calm,” says Cold Cuts producer and curator Nicole Rayburn.

She says the eight selections are heavily edited, digital and speak to technological advancement.

“I thought it would be a very interesting contrast in Dawson to have this life that we are so removed from in a way and yet we are so subject to,” says Rayburn. “If you watch TV or go online there is this inundation of images, information and sounds.”

The festival schedule kicked off Thursday night with the screening of filmmaker in residence Michelle Latimer’s ALIAS. It was to be followed by Big Blue, which documents former Berton House writer-in-residence Charles Wilkins’ voyage across the Atlantic in a 16-crew rowboat.

The short film programs start on Friday, along with workshops with Normand Roger and Daniel Janke, and the opening reception for the Cold Cuts Video Festival in the ODD Gallery. The weekend holds more shorts, youth screenings, a location recording workshop with David Hechenberger, a screening and Q&A with filmmaker-in-residence Madi Piller, emerging artists screenings, a street barbecue and live music by Dawson’s The Naysayers.

Festival director Dan Sokolowski says northern Canadian films are a highlight of the short programming festival this year.

“We’ve got a really good selection of films from the Northwest Territories,” says Sokolowski.

The festival typically receives a smattering of northern films, but this year the volume of films from the Northwest Territories in addition to films from Nunavut and northern Labrador round out the selections.

“It’s interesting to see what our neighbours are doing,” he says.

In total, there will be 125 short films screening during the festival covering the range of genres. Program titles reflect themes such as “Up River,” “Down River,” “At the Confluence” and “Beyond the Aurora.”

It is Sokolowski’s eighth year directing the festival and finding the right blend of genres for each program is key to it going smooth.

“The fun part is putting those programs together and sitting in the audience and feeling what they feel,” says Sokolowski.

At 4 a.m. and five days left to shoot and edit, Martin laughs at missing his first Dawson City International Short Film Festival because he will be making one to show.

“It’s going to be a busy weekend,” he says.

Festival passes are $50 for the general public and individual screenings are $9. All tickets can be purchased by dropping by the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture or giving the office a call at 867-993-5005.

See the festival website for schedule and more, at www.dawsonfilmfest.com.

Alyssa Friesen is a freelance writer in Dawson City.

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