When filmmaker Marie Clements screens Red Snow in Dettah on Nov. 5 she says the production will have come full circle.

The film tells the story of Gwich’in soldier Dylan (Asivak Koostachin), who’s captured by the Taliban while fighting in Afghanistan. Cutting between his imprisonment and upbringing in
NWT, the film parallels his experience with the people of Afghanistan.

Its production began in the community, splitting its time between Dettah and
B.C., which stood in for Afghanistan. With the movie enjoying a successful festival
run, Clements told Yellowknifer she’s excited to bring it back to the community
during the Yellowknife International Film Festival.

Red Snow will be screening at the Yellowknife International Film Festival on Nov. 5 in Dettah.
Photo Courtesy of Marie Clements

For her, the movie was always a collaborative effort between her production crew
and the community.

“In every way, we were coming together to make something happen,” said the
B.C.-based filmmaker. “That I think was difficult but really exciting while we were in it.”

Screening the film will give the cast, crew and community an opportunity to reflect on the production, according to Clements.

“It’s part of the grace you get after the hard work,” she said. “You get to sit together
and say, ‘look at what we did.'”

She said the choice of shooting on location in the NWT provided “integrity” to the film. Additionally, collaborating with film, community and cultural connections — all while working in three different languages — added another important layer to the film’s themes, she said.

“We were looking at different cultures and how they make us, and how they
inform who we are, but also how they work together or don’t,” she said.

That connection is readily apparent in one scene where a character discovers a bear caught
in a trap. While filming the scene, Clement said the crew was working in -51C conditions. To make the bear breathe and for viewers “to see the belly rise up and
down,” the crew blew into an air tube that they inserted into the taxidermied bear.

At one point, the air tube froze.

“We were super prepared but you can’t prepare for everything,” Clements said.

That on-location shooting in Dettah gives the film a distinctive character, according to Clements, which is largely rooted in the natural landscapes the crew filmed in.

“It’s so amazing, the beauty of it,” she said. “The beauty of the land and the
extreme conditions of the weather create a beautiful image on film. But to be in it is another thing.”

On this issue, Clements said the film delves into how the land informs its residents,
paralleling the experiences of its Indigenous and Afghan characters.

While it’s common for directors to say the landscape is a character in their movies, Clements said that’s especially true for Red Snow, which considers how  “the North makes different people and how this would inform this character,” she said.

She said the film places Dylan in a “totally different world that is also Indigenous but very different from his own. What would that conversation be and how would that work out for him?”

“In Afghanistan, it’s a similar thing of people moving across the land and understanding how to survive in an entirely differentclimate,” she said, adding that the cast and crew also experienced these intense weather conditions while they filmed.

In extreme heat and cold, the production developed an appreciation for the elements.

“You earn the muscle of the film,” according to Clements. That’s especially true when dozens of crew members are working with several pounds of equipment in extreme conditions and landscapes, mirroring the environments on film.”You’re going to feel like
you survived the day,” she  said.

She’s proud the production had the chance “to live up to it, to
engage in it and survive it.”

Nick Pearce

Nick Pearce is a writer and reporter in Yellowknife, looking for unique stories on the environment and people that make up the North. He's a graduate of Queen's University, where he studied Global Development...

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