A South Slave movie based on a Richard Van Camp graphic novel is to receive its world premiere in Whitehorse next month.
Three Feathers, a story of restorative justice for three young men in a small community, is unique in having been shot simultaneously in four languages: English, Cree, Chipewyan, and South Slavey.
The English version was first screened for community members in November and will now make its broader debut at the Yukon’s Available Light Film Festival.
Directed by Carla Ulrich, the movie will receive its world premiere at 6pm local time on Saturday, February 2.
A day later, another NWT feature film – Jen Walden’s Elijah and the Rock Creature – will play the same festival with a 1:15pm Sunday showing.
‘The perfect tapestry’
The South Slave Divisional Education Council, which helped to fund production of Three Feathers, has been working to get the movie into the festival circuit with a view toward eventual commercial distribution.
“We’re hoping the film will speak to people – that they will find it good entertainment with a message and meaning to it,” said the council’s Brent Kaulback, who was a producer on the project and helped bring it to life.
“There is a very deep and profound message to the film, a message that speaks about restitution, the healing qualities of the land, and reconnecting with one’s culture, language, and traditions,” he said.
“I’m hoping people will hear that message and, perhaps, it will help put people on a pathway where they themselves try to reconnect with their land and culture if that has been lost.”
Following its Whitehorse screening, the council hopes to eventually make the movie available to anyone who requests it, Kaulback said.
In November, Three Feathers was shown to a total of around 600 community members in Łutselkʼe, Hay River, Fort Smith, and Fort Resolution.
Author Van Camp, who had only seen a rough cut of the movie based on his book before attending the Hay River screening, told Cabin Radio: “I knew in the first five minutes we were sitting on a gold mine. It is absolutely beautiful.”
He added: “It’s the perfect tapestry to celebrate the beauty of Fort Smith, the land, the animals, the pelicans, the people, the culture.
“Craig Kovatch was the director of photography. He told me when he was a little boy, his favourite movie was Close Encounters of the Third Kind because every frame was a painting. I told him after we screened it: ‘Craig, you have done for us what Close Encounters did for you.’ Every frame is a painting.”
Van Camp says he started planning the next project “the second it was done.”
“It was that good,” he said in a recent interview. “It’ll knock your socks off. It’s a beautiful story.
“I’m proud of it. I wouldn’t change a thing, and it really honours the spirit of the graphic novel.”
Elijah and the Rock Creature heads to Whitehorse after screenings at December’s Whistler Film Festival, in BC, and an American debut at Other Worlds Austin, in Texas.
“It was amazing. It was an opportunity to take the film outside of the North and show it with people who are not the hometown crowd,” Walden told Cabin Radio after the Whistler festival.
“Hopefully we’ll get into some more festivals, but we also have distribution now with IndieCan and we signed earlier this fall with Shoreline Entertainment in LA, who are doing our US and international distribution.
“Those guys are hard at work trying to secure some broadcasting deals. There’s lots of talk but nothing I can say yet. They are working on stuff for us and we are working towards at a theatrical release in Canada in April – fingers crossed.”
Meanwhile, a group of children from Dettah saw their short feature aired at Toronto’s Blood in the Snow horror festival in late November.
Frostbite, which features a hand puppet of the same name terrorizing those who venture out into the cold, was given a special award by festival organizers for the “most promising debut.”
Laiza Koyina, 13, and 12-year-old Maalea Baillargeon travelled to Toronto to take part in the festival. Their short film was initially an entry for 2018’s Dead North horror festival in Yellowknife.
“What happened was extraordinary,” said Lea Lamoureux, principal of Kaw Tay Whee School in Dettah.
“They were treated like equals by the film-makers, the organizers, and the volunteers. There was a line of people waiting to meet them, take photos with them, and talk about their experience.
“Those two young women conducted themselves with such poise … and it goes back to the whole idea behind the film-making: learning, problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork. They’ve grown their film-making skills but they’ve also grown a lot of ‘soft’ skills, their personal development.
“Frostbite is really fun. People have connected with Frostbite. It started as a little spark and now it’s a fire. It’s a vehicle for the students to use their own voice and tell their own stories, and that’s pretty powerful.”
Walden said the success of various northern features made her feel ‘energized’ for the industry and her own work.
“People are really excited about the film, but also about northern film,” she said.
“It’s a time to promote the North, not just individual film.”