Elijah and the Rock Creature, the latest full-length feature to be filmed in the Northwest Territories, will receive its premiere at Yellowknife’s film festival this month.
The trailer for the movie, directed by Jen Walden, was published online by the Yellowknife International Film Festival on Thursday.
The premiere takes place on the five-day festival’s opening night, Wednesday, September 26.
In the film, nine-year-old Elijah gets lost on a camping trip in Wood Buffalo National Park and meets a fantastical creature. The movie follows their adventure as they try to find their way home.
Members of the production crew racked up tens of kilometres ferrying equipment on foot into and out of the national park – where preservation measures bar the use of vehicles and limit the number of people on set.
Walden hopes the feature’s resulting blend of stunning landscapes and emotional pull will see Elijah and the Rock Creature accepted at more festivals, paving the way for her next full-length movie.
“I hope the hook is the story itself. It’s a genuine and heartwarming story about grieving, losing somebody you love, how you overcome those challenges, how a family bonds and pulls you through hard times,” she told Cabin Radio.
“I think that is going to grab people and touch them emotionally. What sells that is when you set it in this beautiful location, the Northwest Territories, with these dramatic landscapes.
“That kind of stuff is going to, I think, wow people. People have commented on just how amazing it is and they now want to come North.”
Elijah and the Rock Creature had a shooting budget of just $20,000, relying on donations in kind and time volunteered by a range of northern residents.
“It’s hard to pay people with that amount of money when it requires such a large group of crew, and cast, and supporters. It was a struggle,” said Walden. “We were really lucky that we were so well-supported by the community,
“I would like for us to get recognition at specific children’s festivals. I would like it to get into that circuit. I think if we can do that, we can get a bigger audience, get interest, and that leads to us being able to make more films.
“I’m working on another script that’s also a youth story, that I want to film up here. It’s got a fantastical element to it as well, that’s my style, I like that. And I want to film this one in the winter, instead of the summer. It’s what the North has to offer, let’s figure out how to work with it.”
Also playing at the festival is a taste of new series S**t I Found Diving in Yellowknife, following Jeremy MacDonald’s diving exploits as documented on his Facebook page. Other features on show include:
- Shut Up And Say Something, a documentary about northern slam poet Shane
- The Grizzlies, which tells the story of a lacrosse team for youth in Nunavut; and
- Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, a new narrative from director Gus Van Sant.
“This year’s screening program includes a lot of diverse stories that are relevant and fascinating to northerners,” said Jeremy Emerson, the festival’s director, in a news release. “I’m thrilled about the films we’ve secured, and the professional development opportunities we’re able to offer local film makers and artists.”
Alongside the film screenings, the festival includes a series of workshops and networking opportunities for NWT filmmakers.
Tickets for events begin at $12. Tickets for Elijah and the Rock Creature’s premiere cost $20, while a punch pass offering access to seven events costs $60 under early-bird pricing until September 10.