The 15th Dawson International Short Film Festival kicked off tonight with a pair of screenings of, well, not-so-short films. The remainder of the weekend will of course see the traditional line-up of shorts, but these two special feature documentaries continued the DCIFF’s recent tradition of opening with some select longer offerings from filmmakers or writers with a Dawson connection.
First up was ALIAS from current Filmmaker-in-Residence Michelle Latimer. The documentary is a raw and intimate look into the lives and aspirations of hip-hop artists from Toronto’s public housing projects, looking to use their music as a way to escape the poverty and menace of the mean streets, and as a voice and means of expression for their urban underclass.
During a Q&A session afterwards, Latimer described the process of gaining acceptance into the rap-music subculture, and provided updates on where some of the individuals we met in the film are today. She also described how her own aboriginal heritage caused her to abhor the injustices that members of many visual minorities encounter daily at the hands of the police.
The subsequent late showing was The Big Blue, by former Berton House Writer-In-Residence Charles Wilkins. The film chronicles a voyage across the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados aboard an experimental rowboat. There was no support vessel, no stored water, no sails, and no motor. Most of the crew were young, fit, experienced rowers — and then there was Wilkins, a self-described “scrawny 63-year-old intent on a last great adventure [who] had never swung an oar in earnest.”
The voyage resulted in Wilkins’ latest travel book Little Ship of Fools, but he also wrote the narration for and voiced the film, as well as serving as one of its subjects. Speaking after the screening Wilkins described how a movie can only capture certain facets of a story, and went into more depth and colourful detail about the hardships, and the interpersonal tensions encountered on the voyage.
Wilkins had also spoke about his book and presented a slideshow at the Dawson City Community Library on Wednesday, and will be part of the upcoming Live Words Yukon Writers’ festival, which takes place from April 23rd to 26th in Whitehorse and other Yukon communities.
Now its on to the main business of the Dawson Film Festival — short films, workshops, and lots of fun.
— Dan Dowhal, Dawson City Writer-at-Large