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Northern cinema celebrated in Yukon film festival

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The Available Light Film Festival, now in its 12th year, began on Sunday in Whitehorse, the capital of northwestern Canada’s Yukon territory.

The festival is an annual celebration of Northern cinema, and this year is no exception.

“Every year, the festival programs films from the circumpolar north, and specifically from the Arctic regions of Canada or the subarctic, in our case,” said festival director Andrew Connors. “We’re opening the festival, appropriately with a documentary about the creation of Nunavut, and that film’s called `Arctic Defenders.'”

More than 30 films were to be featured throughout the week at the festival.

They include "Uvanga," the latest film by the producers of "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner" and "Before Tomorrow."

"Uvanga," or “myself” in English, tells the story of a 14-year-old boy from Montreal who visits Igloolik with his mother to meet the family of his biological father, who died in mysterious circumstances.

“The film is unexpected in a way, because it’s actually shot in the height of summer, so it’s not what we typically see in the Arctic,” Connors says.

"Uvanga" was named Best Feature at the Yellowknife International Film Festival in October. It’s directed by Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeleine Piujuq Ivalu, and includes many scenes in Inuktitut.

On Monday, the festival was scheduled to  host the Canadian premiere of the National Film Board documentary "Crazywater" by the Inuvialuit filmmaker Dennis Allen, who lives in Whitehorse.

The film is billed as “an emotional and revealing exploration of substance abuse among First Nations people in Canada.” Allen will be at the screening, along with cinematographer Kirk Tougas and NFB producer Teri Snelgrove.

The festival will also feature "Rhymes for Young Ghouls," the acclaimed feature film by Quebec director Jeff Barnaby. His movie has been called a “revenge fantasy thriller.” It’s about a group of teenagers who resist mandatory attendance at residential school.

Other Northern films this year include a Danish film called "Expedition to the End of the World," an adventure story about a ship traveling through Northeastern Greenland, that is said to be “intriguingly original.”

The festival also includes workshops and a comedy pitch competition, where Whitehorse actors and comedians will pitch a comedy series to local television.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.