Portraits from a Fire lights up the 35th Annual Edmonton International Film Festival

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The 35th annual Edmonton International Film Festival makes its bold and hybrid return this Friday with Portraits from a Fire chosen to open the 10-day event.


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A heartbreaking yet hilarious coming-of-age story directed and co-written by Tsilhqot’in filmmaker Trevor Mack, played in person at 6:30 pm, while also available online, is really cool.

The film’s initial charm is almost delightfully overwhelming, and it centers on long-haired teenage protagonist Tyler (William Lulua), a serious and quirky rez boy who shoots home-made sci-fi movies with cardboard space marines and a video camera. ramshackle. He will soon have his first showing of a truly disappointing film on an outdoor summer track for an audience of three … one of which is, well, asleep.

As a storyteller, Mack clearly draws on his own early experience; But no matter the filmmakers, anyone who has thrown a party that no one has attended will feel this. Tyler curses the fact that he foolishly chose bingo night for the world premiere of his creation.


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And while the narrative soon begins to unearth a devastating, almost supernatural trauma for Tyler and his father Gord (Nathaniel Arcand, star born in Edmonton in the north of the 60s), Mack is very careful to balance this with not just authentically demonstrated healing. but also with repeated moments of pure joy that makes this whole movie special. This is often due to Tl’etinqox Elder, Sammy (Sammy Stump), washing his clothes on the screen in a mobile, makeshift washer-dryer with tarp and clothesline in the back of his truck in just one highlight.

A personal approach

In making the film, the 29-year-old Mack thought deeply about how to tell a story with a lot of injected pain, but without exploiting the trauma. Your central tragedy, the titular arson, actually stemmed from one of your grandmother’s worst tragedies, but I’m being wary of spoilers here on purpose.


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“In the movie,” Mack explains over the phone from the Kootenays, “there is nothing about residential schools, there is nothing about colonialism. Actually, it is a universal story that can happen to any family. And, you know, how a family reacts to tragedy and how that domino effect, how far it goes and how to break that cycle.

“It is very important with the images that we show our people, what are those images and sounds that we want to create, right? Is it going to be domestic violence and tragedy porn? Because maybe that’s the real reality, true for many people, and it’s really stark.

“But then what are those little literal images doing to our youth, psychologically?”

Tyler’s endearing artistic expression within his amateur cinema and Sammy’s hope of being in his films are at the heart of the film.


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“Sammy is a character in our community that everyone knows,” says Mack. “In real life, he actually makes baby baskets.

“I was like, ‘Hey, Sammy, do you want to be in my movie?’ And he was like, ‘Can I shoot a white man?’ “

This joke ends up written in the movie, Sammy encourages Tyler to make a western in which they are good gun shooters.

“And then,” Mack explains, “a lot of what was happening in the movie came naturally from the community and, you know, things would change from day to day.

“And we were just saying, ‘Wow, yeah, let’s do this!'”

Of course, this is just one of dozens of feature films and shorts at EIFF (pronounced “aif”) this year, screening at the otherwise painfully stagnant Landmark Cinemas 9 City Center, with another set of posters truly dazzling from FKA.


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Local productions

Edmonton-made features alone include groundbreaking Kyle Armstrong’s new, Hands That Bind; Rosvita Dransfeld’s Dog Show Documentary Dogsville; Christopher Donaldson’s new horror Ditched, filmed in the Edmonton area; and Heather Hatch’s Site C Dam’s impressive documentary Wochiigii Lo: End of the Peace, just released on TIFF.

Some of the shorts with Alberta connections include Annette Loiselle’s COVID Collections; two by Colin Waugh – Camera and Sleigh; The hope of Harmen Van Andel; Neil Chase’s Boneyard Racers; Stan Papulkas Highway 13; and two from Edmonton expat Niobe Thompson, The Time We Have Left and The Long Today.

The shorts, by the way, will be available online from October 4-31.

The full program, with documentary film themes and narratives ranging from the A-Ha gang to the anthropology of pigs and a psychotic family cat, is underway at edmontonfilmfest.com.


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For those interested in watching these movies from the comfort of their home, many of the movies can be rented through Eventive. When you’re researching the schedule, just click on each movie and the page will tell you if it’s available in your living room or not.

For example, the short film by local directors Frederick Kroetsch and Tom Robinson Blind Ambition: The Story of Wop May is screened in a bundle with three others (the two Thompson films and the star-studded animation, Back Home Again) at 5 : 45 pm Sunday, and it will also be available online that day for $ 10.

Director Laurent Cantet’s international narrative feature Arthur Rambo, meanwhile, is showing Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday nights next week, but is not available online.


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Indoor firsts

Additionally, several feature films will have in-person Q&A sessions afterward with their filmmakers, including Hands That Bind, Ditched, Wochiigii Lo, All-In Madonna, Attick Trunk, Invisible, Dogsville, on closing night. present Holy Frit and, taking us back to the top, Trevor Mack from Portraits from a Fire.

Due to the extenda-play pandemic, there are no passes this year, and most movies sold individually through landmarkcinemas.com cost $ 15 each. And a cleaning note: proof of shots is required to attend all events in the theater.

EIFF film reviews will be published in the newspaper this weekend and in the Arts section of the online magazine starting tomorrow.

Ok, now it’s in your hands – head over to edmontonfilmfest.com and start browsing the 35th annual movie buffet. As the official poster says, after all: “Films from all over the world. Flat Earthers are still welcome. “

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