January 19, 2017 – Vancouver – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)
Canada’s largest film festival north of 60, the Available Light Film Festival (ALFF) in Whitehorse is featuring a selection of 10 celebrated new and classic National Film Board of Canada (NFB) films, as well as the participation of acclaimed directors and key figures in the NFB’s push to bring the issues and stories of Canada’s North to the rest of the country and the world.
Taking place February 4 to 12, the ALFF is showcasing five new NFB feature-length works, including the festival’s opening gala film, Angry Inuk (NFB/Unikkaat Studios/EyeSteelFilm), directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, and the animated feature Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming (Stickgirl Productions/Sandra Oh/NFB) by Vancouver’s Ann Marie Fleming.
Zaynê Akyol’s Gulîstan, Land of Roses (Périphéria Productions/Mîtosfilm/NFB), Tiffany Hsiung’s The Apology and Julia Ivanova’s Limit Is the Sky are screening at the festival, as are two shorter NFB docs exploring events both baffling and promising in Canada’s East Coast fisheries: John Hopkins’ Bluefin and Justin Simms’ HAND.LINE.COD.
The festival will also include two NFB retrospective screenings: the Quebec classic Pour la suite du monde as well as a tribute to the legendary Leonard Cohen, featuring the documentary Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen with the Cohen-inspired musical animated short, I’m Your Man.
In attendance at the festival to present their films will be Alethea Arnaquq-Baril (Angry Inuk), Ann Marie Fleming and Sandra Oh (Window Horses) and John Hopkins (Bluefin), along with Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson, and Shirley Vercruysse and Rob McLaughlin, executive producers of the NFB’s Vancouver-based B.C. and Yukon Studio and Digital Studio, respectively.
All NFB screenings take place at the Yukon Arts Centre.
Featured as the festival’s opening night gala film on February 5 starting at 6:45 p.m., Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk finally brings Inuit voices into the debate over the seal hunt. This multi-award-winning feature film travels across the Canadian Arctic to hear from the people the animal activists rarely bother to meet—the hunters, the craftspeople, the families for whom the seal hunt is a critical part of their livelihood and survival―and follows a group of students to Europe, where they plead the Inuit case before a European Union panel.
Angry Inuk garnered some of the country’s top honours this past year, including the Audience Award at Hot Docs, the Alanis Obomsawin Best Documentary Award at imagineNATIVE and a selection to the Toronto International Film Festival’s list of the top ten Canadian films of 2016. His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston also recently conferred a Meritorious Service Cross to Arnaquq-Baril for her founding of Unikkaat Studios. An Unikkaat Studios Inc. production in co-production with the NFB, in association with EyeSteelFilm, Angry Inuk is produced by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Bonnie Thompson (NFB).
Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming
Screening February 5 at 3:30 p.m., Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses is a feature animation about love—love of family, poetry, history, culture―in which a young Canadian poet embarks on a whirlwind voyage of discovery. The film’s voice actors include Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Don McKellar, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Nancy Kwan. More than a dozen animators, including Kevin Langdale, Janet Perlman, Bahram Javaheri and Jody Kramer, worked on the film with Fleming.
Awards to date include the Best Canadian Feature Film Award at the Reel Asian International Film Festival, top prizes at the Vancouver International Film Festival, for Best BC Film and Best Canadian Film, as well as a selection to TIFF’s Top Ten. Window Horses is co-produced by Stickgirl Productions (Ann Marie Fleming), Sandra Oh and the NFB (Shirley Vercruysse and Michael Fukushima), and distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media.
Limit Is the Sky
Julia Ivanova’s Limit Is the Sky explores the lives of a diverse group of millennials in search of money, identity and success, whose paths lead them to Fort McMurray, a remote town in the heart of the world’s third-largest oil reserves. Shot over several years, Limit Is the Sky follows these young workers as they do their best to join the ranks of the highly paid oil-field labourers who made “Fort Mac” a boomtown. But what happens when the boomtown goes bust? Can these so-called “gold-collar workers” hang on? Limit Is the Sky is produced by Bonnie Thompson. February 7 at noon.
Gulîstan, Land of Roses
Screening February 7 at 2:00 p.m., Zaynê Akyol’s Gulîstan, Land of Roses follows Kurdish female fighters who share their revolutionary and feminist ideals as they fight for their territory and wage war against ISIS, the so-called Islamic State group. Honours to date for the film include the coveted Doc Alliance Selection Award, chosen by seven of Europe’s top documentary film festivals, as well as the award for best feature-length film at the Milan Film Festival. Gulîstan, Land of Roses is produced by Sarah Mannering, Fanny Drew and Yanick Létourneau (Périphéria), Mehmet Aktaş (Mîtosfilm), and Nathalie Cloutier and Denis McCready (NFB).
Presented February 8 at 2:00 p.m., this feature documentary debut by Tiffany Hsiung follows the personal journeys of three “grandmothers”—Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines—who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. After decades of living in silence and shame, they know that time is running out to give a first-hand account of the truth and ensure that this horrific chapter of history is not forgotten.
Produced by Anita Lee for the NFB, The Apology had its world premiere in the Big Ideas section at Hot Docs, where it was the runner-up for the audience award. South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival gave the film its Cinephile Award, given to the best world documentary film in its Wide Angle Documentary Showcase.
Bluefin and HAND.LINE.COD.
Bluefin immerses audiences in a tale of epic stakes set in North Lake, PEI, the “tuna capital of the world.” Winner of the award for Best Atlantic Filmmaker at the Lunenburg Doc Fest for filmmaker John Hopkins, Bluefin explores the baffling mystery of why the normally wary bluefin tuna no longer fear humans, with locals swearing that the fish are so starving and abundant they’ll literally eat out of people’s hands.
Set in the coldest waters surrounding Newfoundland’s rugged Fogo Island, Justin Simms’ short film HAND.LINE.COD. follows a group of “people of the fish”—traditional fishers who catch cod live by hand, by hook and line, one at a time. With stocks returning after a 20-year moratorium on North Atlantic cod, these fishers are leading a revolution in sustainability.
Bluefin is produced by Annette Clarke and Paul McNeill. HAND.LINE.COD. is produced by Annette Clarke. The films are being shown together starting at 5:00 p.m. on February 10.
Presented February 5 at 1:15 p.m., Pour la suite du monde (1963) is a pioneering work of ethnofiction, for which residents of Île aux Coudres, an island in the Saint Lawrence River, agreed to re-enact their traditional Beluga whale hunt one last time. Co-directed by Michel Brault and Pierre Perrault, the film is considered a milestone work in the history of Direct Cinema. Pour la suite du monde will be introduced by John Walker (Quebec My Country Mon Pays).
Screening on February 8 at noon, Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen (1965) is a documentary portrait of this legendary writer and musician, who passed away in 2016―as did Don Owen, co-director of the film with Donald Brittain. Also screening is Roslyn Schwartz’s animated short I’m Your Man, set to the Leonard Cohen song of the same name, offering a playful meditation on romance.
Available Light Film Festival
Yukon Arts Centre
Meritorious Service Cross