The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the global film industry, slowing and halting many productions, but it hasn’t put a stop to this year’s Yellowknife International Film Festival.
The 14th annual event, which includes features and short movies from across Canada and the circumpolar north – with select international films – will run from November 4 to 8.
This year’s festival will hold screenings and workshops online.
“I won’t say that we won’t add a physical screening. I still have that in the back of my mind… But at this point, it’s all virtual,” said Jeremy Emerson, executive director of Western Arctic Moving Pictures (Wamp), which organizes the festival.
Among this year’s films, former Yellowknife residents Bob Kussy and Gotta Ashoona star in Carved in Stone: Sanannguaqtit, which follows a family of Inuit artists.
Citizen Bio – produced in part by Graeme Manson, a co-creator of Canadian sci-fi drama Orphan Black – explores the world of biohacking in which five protagonists experiment on themselves and “strive to put science and medicine back in the hands of the people.”
Family Routes – the Keith Robertson documentary following Yellowknifers Dwayne Wohlgemuth, Leanne Robinson and their children on a 100-day canoe trip in the barrenlands – will be screened after most of its other festival showings this year were scrapped due to the pandemic.
In K’i Tah Amongst the Birch, Melaw Nakehk’o documents her family’s retreat to the land as the Covid-19 pandemic reaches the territory.
Elsewhere in the schedule, Yellowknifer turned film student Ben McGregor airs short film The Day The Rocket Left, while an episode of Ryan Gregory’s Fish’n the Arctic show will appear, as will a show from Caroline Cox’s NorthernHer series featuring Yellowknife fisher Stephanie Vaillancourt.
See the full list of films (and watch their trailers) here.
‘Not stuck to a handful of screenings’
Emerson is expecting fewer ticket sales this year but says there are benefits to a virtual film festival.
Planning this year’s event has been easier and less expensive, he said. Organizers have also been able to include more films. The 2020 festival will include 13 features and 21 shorts, which people can watch from the comfort of their own homes on demand.
“People can watch at all hours. We’re not stuck to a handful of screening times … so we have more films that are available to watch than any other year,” Emerson explained.
The festival’s annual “Pitch This!” competition will also take place online. Participants have five minutes to pitch their documentary or TV show idea for the chance to win $5,000 in cash and $5,000 in “Wamp bucks,” which can be redeemed at Wamp for equipment rentals and other services.
Some workshops will be pre-recorded, Emerson said, like a conversation with Honey Tingles and Mikey McBryan – NWT owners of popular YouTube channels – on monetizing their videos. Panels, like one on funding for film projects, will be held live on Zoom.
The festival is currently holding an all-access pass giveaway on its Facebook page. Beginning next week, organizers will raffle off movie snack baskets.