What to watch at this year’s YK International Film Festival

Last modified: October 25, 2021 at 7:22pm


Beans? Boundless? Tails on Ice? There are nearly 50 things you could watch from your sofa at next week’s Yellowknife International Film Festival. Here are some highlights.

For the second year, the festival is entirely online. An all-access pass is $75 or six screenings will cost you $40. This year, all the films are available for the full festival (November 3 to November 7, inclusive).


To figure out how to watch the festival films on your TV or other device, check this guide. Be aware most of the films are geographically restricted, so they’ll only be viewable if you’re in Canada.

We asked festival director Jeremy Emerson to help us pick from the 10 features and 38 short films on offer, including a range of local entries.

Food for the Rest of Us

This documentary’s production team are all-NWT: the film is directed by Caroline Cox and produced by Tiffany Ayalik and Jerri Thrasher. It follows previous collaborations between Cox and Ayalik such as Wild Kitchen, which profiled people harvesting wild food and living off the land.

Food for the Rest of Us (86 mins) travels from Tuktoyaktuk to the tropical valleys of Hawaii to explore the power of food as community activism.

In April, the filmmakers told us their production questions the idea of a “one-size-fits-all” solution to food security and sovereignty. Since that interview, Schitt’s Creek star Dustin Milligan has joined the documentary as an executive producer.


Emerson said a recorded Q&A with director Cox will form part of this year’s festival behind-the-scenes offering.

Food is a theme at this year’s festival. If this interests you, also bookmark Suzanne Crocker’s First We Eat (101 mins), which follows Crocker feeding a family of five in Dawson City using only food that can be hunted, fished, gathered, grown, or raised.


Based on true events, this film chronicles the 78-day Oka crisis in 1990 between two Mohawk communities and the government in Quebec.

“It’s a fresh take on that crisis. There have been documentaries on it, but nothing in this sort of genre,” says Emerson.


Beans (92 mins) had its premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, coming close to taking the People’s Choice award, and went on to take 2021’s Best Picture award at the Canadian Screen Awards.

The film is directed by Tracey Deer, who is Mohawk and who was 12 years old when the Oka crisis occurred. The crisis saw Mohawk community members erect a barricade to block a golf course expansion onto a burial ground. Ultimately, that confrontation turned violent.

Night Raiders

“Night Raiders is about a Cree woman who fights to get her daughter back,” says Emerson, who adds the film is set in a dystopian future.

“There are drones flying around and people being put in jail. It’s one of those scary films that maybe hits close to home for some people.”

Night Raiders (97 mins) is the debut film from Cree-Métis director Danis Goulet. It’s a joint Canadian-New Zealand production that follows Niska, who joins a resistance movement in the year 2044 to save her daughter.

Taika Waititi, the Oscar-winning writer and director of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, is credited as an executive producer.

Tails on Ice

Alongside the features are dozens of short films, like this one – made in the NWT by a crew that included Emerson supporting Yellowknife director Miranda Currie.

Tails on Ice (11 mins) follows sled dog Ellesmere on her first training run, described as a “rite of passage.”

“The pandemic had just hit. Miranda was just hoping to go into production and she had to jump through a lot of extra hoops to be able to shoot,” says Emerson.

“We were able to do it outside over a weekend. It’s told from the perspective of one of the dogs, so it’s kind-of fun. It’s geared toward children and families.”

Verdict 30001: The Cookies

There’s an international dimension to this film festival – it’s in the name – and one of the world films on the roster this year is this offering from Finland.

Director Samuel Häkkinen’s Verdict 30001: The Cookies (9 mins) caught Emerson’s attention because “it just goes into the mindset of someone deciding to buy cookies or not,” he said.

“There’s an internal conflict there.”

If that sounds like it’s your thing, there’s also a sci-fi opera from Austria you’ll want to check out.


Described as a “one-of-a-kind film” and shot in Guelph, Boundless (11 mins) examines the role of American and Canadian female pilots during World War Two.

Filmmaker Kate Campbell’s grandmother was such a pilot and belonged to an international group dedicated to the advancement of female pilots.

The short film explores what happened when the war ended and groups of female pilots were “abruptly disbanded, shamed for taking the jobs of men, denied military status, and forced to pay their own way home.”

More from the NWT

To view more from the NWT’s own filmmakers, here are the territory’s other representatives at this year’s YKIFF alongside brief descriptions provided by the festival:

On Pensive Waters (15 mins, Keith Robertson) – Two-dozen youth from the Kitikmeot and the Dehcho embark on a two-week canoe trip on the Pensive Lakes Loop near Yellowknife. Along the way they learn canoe skills and about themselves.

Paddling the Tsiigehnjiik (20 mins, Amos Scott) – Twelve students from Tsiigehtchic canoe down their ancestral waterway with community knowledge holders and school staff. As the students make their way down the Tsiigehnjiik (Arctic Red River), they strengthen their relationships with their land, community, language, culture, and themselves.

Dene Drum Songs in Gahnı̨hthah (11 mins, Jonathan Antoine) – A short documentary on the Dene Drum in Gahnı̨hthah (Rabbitkettle).

McNallie Hydroflight (8 mins, Kevin Klingbeil, Riel Stevenson) – An epic adventure to showcase flyboarding in the NWT.

Lastly, though not produced in the NWT, Blind Ambition: The Wop May Story (20 mins, Frederick Kroetsch, Tom Robinson) brings to life the story of Wop May, a renowned bush pilot who spent much of his career in the territory.

Check out the full list of films for more inspiration.

What about workshops?

Stay tuned for more information about workshops associated with the festival. In a bid to host them in person, they have been delayed until early 2022, Emerson says.

This article was produced through a paid partnership between the Yellowknife International Film Festival and Cabin Radio.