In Dawson City this past weekend was all about shorts, both the fashion and the films.
The 13th annual Dawson City International Short Film Festival featured more than 100 films during the three-day event.
And though the weather outside, for the most part, was warm and sunny, many people chose to spend it in the dark watching films.
Organizers were expecting about 1,600 people to attend and while they don’t have the final numbers, festival producer Dan Sokolowski said it looked pretty good.
“Usually there’s one or two screenings in the afternoon where you only get a dozen or so, but this year they were all reasonably full,” he said.
It was a big weekend for Yukon filmmakers.
Whitehorse resident Daniel Janke took home the first place Made In The Yukon award, for his film, River.
The short documentary mixed archival audio interviews with historic and contemporary footage of the Yukon River to create what the jury called “a soulful and artistic meditation on family and the eternal quality of the river.”
“I think people that live here have became numb to the history,” said Janke.
River was an attempt to “rejuvenate the mythology” of the Yukon and combat the ghettoization of northern art and culture, he said.
It is the third time Janke has won the Made In The Yukon award. Although he accepted the award, he decided to donate the $2,000 in cash and equipment rentals to an emerging Yukon artist to be picked by the jury.
Janke said in the last few years the quality of Yukon films has improved drastically. He hopes his donation will add to the improvement.
“It won’t be that easy for me to win next year,” he said.
The second place Made in the Yukon Award also went to an “historic documentary.”
Shot in and around Dawson City, A Working Cats Guide to the Yukon tells the obscure, hilarious and too-good-to-be-true story of winter cat sledding.
“It’s an important part of Yukon history that needs to be told,” said director Veronica Verkley as seriously as she possibly could.
A sculptor and instructor at the Yukon School of Visual Arts, Verkley admitted she has never cat sledded herself. But she said she did find a lot of people around Dawson City – in bars and on the street – who claimed to be experienced “cat sledders” or at least knew of someone who was.
“Stories just came out of the woodwork,” Verkley deadpanned. “People are so generous. At the drop of the hat they are willing to tell their stories.”
But Yukoners don’t just love to tell a tall tale, they love to hear one as well. Verkley’s production was also voted best film for the Yukon Brewing Audience Choice award.
Moira Saurer, who appeared as a cat sledder in Verkley’s film, also won big.
Her silent film The Provider won the Made In The Yukon Emerging Talent award and her short commercial for the festival also won the CBC North PSA contest.
Kathryn Hepburn’s animated How to Make a Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Sandwich took the second-place emerging talent category, with an honourable mention going to Jay Armitage’s politically charged animation, Coming this Fall.
The Made in the Yukon youth award was given to a group of young people from the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation for their film, The Story of Crow. It was made under the guidance of Chris Clarke and Kerry Barber.
And though there were films from places as far afield as Egypt, it was a film from Nunavut, Miranda de Pencier’s Throat Song, that won the Lodestar award for the best Canadian or international film at the festival.
Both Sauer’s film, The Provider, and Janke’s documentary, River, were recently screened at the Tromso International Film Festival in Norway.
There’s a good chance that some of the Yukon films will get a showing in Quebec.
Two Montreal-based filmmakers, Guy Edoin and Matthew Rankin, staged a festival within a festival, by showing films from La tournee de canadienne des Rendezvous du cinema quebecois.
The focus of La tournee is to help promote Quebecois cinema across the country, but it’s also on the lookout for some films to take back.
The two filmmakers were asked by that festival’s programmer, Danny Lennon, to find some Yukon films to show at his short film screening series, Prends ca court.
Quebec has a much more vibrant audience for short films, and according to Rankin that’s mostly due to Lennon’s efforts.
But given the turn-out in Dawson this year, it’s safe to say Quebec is not the only place where short films are a draw.
Contact Josh Kerr at