This year's Paddling Film Festival featured two Yellowknife-made films on canoeing along with other movies from Canadian and American directors, and was organized by the NWT Recreation and Parks Association. Rapid Media image
This year’s Paddling Film Festival featured two Yellowknife-made films on canoeing along with other movies from Canadian and American directors, and was organized by the NWT Recreation and Parks Association. Rapid Media image

Almost 80 people filled the Top Knight on Saturday for movies about the North, women and the environment for the fifth annual Paddling Film Festival.

The event was part of the festival’s world tour, put together by Rapid Media who provided a package of films for local screenings. The NWT Recreation and Parks Association (NWTRPA) organizes the Yellowknife editions of the festival.

Among the several Canadian and international films shown, two were locally made.

Nahanni School Trip was filmed by students from Sir John Franklin high school and as its title suggests is about a canoe trip down the Nahanni River. Artless Collective helped the students produce the seven-minute video.

“It was a really cute video,” said event organizer Rachel Cluderay, who is also On the Land Programs Consultant with NWTRPA. “It was sweet to see them do this really epic trip. The crowd was pumped about that and the idea of doing a trip on the Nahanni.”

On Pensive Waters was the second local film, directed by Keith Robertson, a former Range Lake North teacher turned freelance filmmaker.

It featured a group of 24 Dehcho and Inuit youth who in July did a 12-day canoe trip on lakes and rivers along the Ingraham Trail.

“It was a cross-cultural trip about youth gaining new skills and confidence. They definitely went through some struggles with portages but they came out feeling really positive about themselves,” Cluderay said.

Robertson won the Best Canoeing Film at last year’s Paddling Festival for Family Routes, his movie about a family of four embarking on a summer-long trip across the NWT.

“The local (films) always hit close to home for people in Yellowknife because people they know are in them, doing things they could do in the NWT,” Cluderay said.

More women represented

The Arctic-focussed Ocean to Asgard, directed by British Columbian filmmaker Heather Mosher features four friends who travel to Baffin Island for a 40-day “human-powered adventure.”

“They hiked up mountains and did white water paddling back to Pangnirtung (Nunavut). Then they did a rock climbing clinic for the youth there. It was a cool way to end the trip and honour the people whose land they were on,” Cluderay said.

In The Moondance, directed by Anne Cleary, four women paddlers do a sea kayak trip in B.C.’s Salish Sea.

The kayakers live off the bounty of the sea during their trip and “make these amazing five-star-looking meals with seafood,” Cluderay said.

Josiah, the 10-year-old son of filmmaker Aaron Peterson narrates 24 Leeches, which focuses on a canoe trip around the Slate Islands of Lake Superior, Ontario.

Josiah, who suffered from leukemia speaks about camping, canoeing, climate change and the beauty of Canada’s largest lake. Though 24 Leeches was produced in 2018, the film was released in 2019 after Josiah passed away.

“It’s part-family adventure, part-environmental film,” Cluderay said. “The son was concerned about climate change and wanted people from future generations to keep coming to the islands.”

She remarked that the set of films for 2021 included more directed by women and featuring women paddlers.

“It’s typically men doing these trips. It’s cool to see women at the forefront.”

Still popular despite Covid restrictions

This year’s festival had a different format due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Attendance was capped at 79, down from the usual number of 140. Tables were spaced two metres apart and festival goers had to wear masks when they weren’t eating or drinking.

“(But) I don’t think it changed the experience for everyone. It was the same with people watching films with their friends, sitting together and drinking beers,” Cluderay said.

And perhaps because the festival is among the few indoor cultural events permitted to happen amid Covid-19, eager film and paddling buffs bought up tickets faster than in previous years.

“They sold out three weeks in advance,” Cluderay said. “In classic Yellowknife fashion, people don’t usually buy tickets until the last minute but this time it seems people bought them pretty immediately.”

This year was also the first time the festival offered remote viewings for people who couldn’t physically attend the screenings.

There have been 10 orders for virtual viewings, allowing people from outside Yellowknife to watch the films. Cluderay said people can still buy tickets for remote viewings.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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