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Tradition in festival screening
Audience shown depiction of life in the North

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 27, 2014

The only thing missing was the popcorn as the Yellowknife International Film Festival rolled into town Feb. 22 and 23.

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Jacquie Bastick, left, Jenny Kosta, Joe Kosta and Maya March were very enthused about the film festival presented at the Midnight Sun Recreation Complex Feb. 22. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

More than a dozen people showed up to watch the eight films in the series. Four were presented Saturday night, including Uvanga and the Woman Who Came Back, while Chasing Ice was the highlight of the Sunday screenings.

Uvanga and Chasing Ice are the full-length films, while others, including Pottery Wars and The Space, are short features.

Saturday's screening opened with The Woman Who Came Back, an intriguing animated story of a T'licho woman abducted by Chippewayan raiders who destroyed her village.

It's a story derived from traditional oral history, and provided an intimate snapshot into the regional history of the NWT.

The woman returned to the Tlicho nation after more than a year away, after southern traders helped free her from her captors. According to the tale, she returned with new knowledge and technology, and helped to open T'licho society from its traditional isolation.

In that sense, she was "strong like two people," the film script stated.

Uvanga tells the story of a southern woman returning to Iglulik with her young son, who is of Inuit heritage.

Anna, the mother, had been involved in a brief affair with an Inuk man while working in the town years before. The affair partly sparked a family tragedy, and her return with her son tears open some of those wounds before a healing process of sorts begins.

It's an absorbing tale of cultural strife, competition and isolation, complete with some redemption and full of marvellous Arctic scenery.

Viewers were also taken in by the charms of Abe & Alfred, a short movie tracing the life of Abe Stewart, a Fort McPherson man who auditioned for the role of Alfred, a Gwich'in hunter in a proposed movie.

The filmmakers were so captivated with Abe, who embodied the character of Alfred, that they filmed a documentary with him as the central character. In this case, "character" is indeed the right word, as Abe steals every scene he's in, particularly when he talks about his fondness for the Archie comic characters.

That movie resonated with the audience because of its regional relevance, but it seemed that Uvanga and The Woman Who Came Back struck the strongest chord with them.

"It was stunning," said Jenny Kosta of The Woman Who Came Back.

Her husband Joe Kosta shared that sentiment, as did their friends, including Maya March.

The Kostas are new Inuvik residents and had hoped to gain some insight and appreciation for their new home from the film festival.

They said they particularly appreciated Uvanga, and the chance to see how people lived in the High Arctic environs.

The scenery and the richness of the land surprised them somewhat, the couple said.

"Too often, you think of the High Arctic as some barren place but it really isn't," Joe said.

Chasing Ice also provided some stunning cinematography as photographer, James Balog, traced his obsession with documenting the decline of glaciers across the North.

It was a sobering movie for many people to watch because Balog's innovative camera work showed how many of the glaciers literally are disappearing in front of our eyes.

Steve Krug, the town of Inuvik recreation co-ordinator who had helped organize the film festival, said he was pleased with the turnout and the film selection.

He said the lineup straddled the line between the sometimes grim reality of life in the North, with the grandeur and humour of the region.

Abe & Alfred will be replayed during the Arctic Image Film Festival that is running this coming weekend.

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