Films with NWT links dominate Yellowknife Film Festival line-up

The 2019 Yellowknife International Film Festival line-up has been released, and films shot in the NWT feature prominently among this year’s selections.

The festival begins in Dettah on November 5 with the screening of Red Snow, which features major roles for the NWT’s scenery, actors, and Indigenous languages.

Red Snow is writer, director, and producer Marie Clements’ vision of a Gwich’in soldier’s experience in Afghanistan and his memories of growing up in Aklavik. The movie was partly shot in Dettah, with help from the territory’s residents both on and off-screen.


“What I do love about that experience is my memory of watching locals be involved,” said filmmaker Jay Bulckaert, who line-produced the NWT portion of the film together with Pablo Saravanja.

“Red Snow is probably the first of its kind, a film like this, to come out of the North,” said Bulckaert. “It’s a very unique production in terms of its representation of a lot of different cultures on camera.”

The Gwich’in and Inuvialuktun languages are used in Red Snow, while another festival selection – Three Feathers, a film based on a Richard Van Camp graphic novel – was shot simultaneously in English, Cree, Chipewyan, and South Slavey,

Three Feathers appears at Yellowknife’s Capitol Theatre on November 7. The film follows three young men sent to live on the land for nine months after committing a crime that devastates their community.

“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,” producer Brent Kaulback, from funder the South Slave Divisional Education Council told Cabin Radio earlier this year.


Journeys through some of the territory’s most stunning wilderness are the subject of two documentaries showing at the festival.

Nahanni: River of Forgiveness follows a group of Dehcho Dene people on a quest to build and paddle a mooseskin boat down the Nahanni. In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors films youth hiking a chunk of the Sahtu’s 355-kilometre Canol Trail.

The Northern Lights feature in Aurora Love, Fritz Mueller’s “part romance, part adventure and part spiritual quest,” and Yellowknife’s famous dump – lovingly referred to by locals as Ykea – is the focus of Amy C Elliott’s 57-minute documentary Salvage. Filmed over 10 years of visits to Ykea, Salvage features some of the city’s better-known salvagers and revels in weird and wonderful finds.

Salvage screens together with Jeremy Emerson’s Summer of Smoke. Few who lived in the territory during the summer of 2014 will forget the dense smoke that blanketed the NWT for much of that year’s wildfire season. Emerson’s 30-minute film follows Roxane Landry and her family as they endure the mental and physical stress of 2014’s “megafires.”


“Roxane and her uncles share their stories and experiences in their traditional home in Fort Providence, and the nearby small community of Kakisa that was evacuated during that fire season,” a summary of the film states. “Others’ stories are woven into Roxane’s impassioned storytelling to complete a picture of the summer that was so shrouded in smoke.”

Two Yukon films will be screened at this year’s festival.

How to Bee, in which Yukon filmmaker Naomi Mark documents her father’s beekeeping in the territory and his failing health, starts the second day of the festival.

Sovereign Soil, another Yukon-based film, follows farmers on the outskirts of Dawson City “growing everything from snow-covered Brussels sprouts to apples.” ‍

The festival runs November 5 to 10. Among the closing movies on the festival’s final day, Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up follows the aftermath of Coulten Boushie’s shooting death in rural Saskatchewan.