Sask Independent Film Awards


author: quinn bell | a&c writer

The land of the living skies / Jeremy Davis

Check out this deep discussion behind the film

The Artesian on 13th was at capacity on Friday night, the house filled with both lovers and creators of Saskatchewan independent films. The event, presented by the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, was the Fifth Annual Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards (SIFA), an evening intended to honour our top local filmmakers.

Gordon Pepper, Executive Director of the Filmpool, said, “The event demonstrates that we have a lot of great talent to celebrate in this province.”

Considering that the show was sold-out, it is safe to say that there is also an audience to take in this great talent.

There were six awards given out on Friday. The award for Best Short Film went to Farewell Transmission, by Mike Rollo. According to Rollo’s website, his work “explores alternative approaches to documentary cinema – methods which thematize vanishing cultures and transitional spaces.” A look back at the CBC’s CBK Transmitter Station (a radio station for 1939, fairly recently destroyed), Farewell Transmission fits this description well. In the short, Rollo plays with visual distortions reminiscent of the radio waves once being emitted from the building.

This is not Rollo’s first time at the podium. In 2008, his film Ghosts and Gravel Roads was named as one of Canada’s Top Ten Shorts by the Toronto International Film Group, and it also received the Mikeldi Silver Documentary Award at the Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Film. Rollo, an alumnus of the U of R, is currently a film production professor in the faculty of media, arts, and performance.

The 2018 Award for Best Technical Achievement goes to Sir Bailey, by Matt Ripplinger. Sir Bailey beat out six other nominees, including Farewell Transmission and the night’s other winners.

The night’s award for Best Feature Film was presented to Lowell Dean and Hugh Patterson for their film, SuperGrid. SuperGrid looks fun: it’s a post-apocalyptic adventure story set in the prairies in the not-so-distant future. Saskatchewan’s natural resources have been sold off to foreign countries, there are smugglers and pirates, and everyone’s driving Mad-Max style cars. The environment is garbage, destroyed by things like the North Dakota Pipeline. SuperGrid is gritty, it is local, it is exciting, and it comments on contemporary (and future) issues.

The Sask Independent Film Awards don’t only honour Saskatchewan’s veteran filmmakers, but students as well. This year, Best Student Film was won by Joel Makar and Kenton Evenson for their Beta Test, another futuristic film. Beta Test also won two other awards on Friday night: it was voted for the Audience Choice Award, and actor John Strait won Best Acting for his part in the film. Showcasing student works to a sold-out audience is really encouraging for the future of filmmaking on the prairies. There is a lot of artistic potential around here, and in showing that off, more students will hopefully stay in the province to work and perform for our eager audiences.

Obviously, there have to be incentives to stay and support for the industry. Otherwise, Saskatchewan will keep losing artists to places that make creators feel wanted. I do hope that any sponsors present in the crowd took note of the talent on display at the awards, as well as government officials such as the Honourable Gene Makowsky, Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, who opened the evening. Independent filmmakers need help in Saskatchewan, and events such as SIFA are excellent examples of the potential of prairie makers. It is a good thing we have the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, an impressive artist-led non-profit group that supports Sask filmmaking. Nonetheless, some more support for the supporters would always be welcome, I’m sure.

While the awards wrapped up on Friday night, the fun was not quite over. SIFA Up Close was held the next afternoon at the Artesian as a further celebration of the award winners and their films. This is the first year SIFA Up Close was held. Panel and roundtable discussions were held, and the films were publicly interpreted by film critics. Discussions were based around the artists, their use of film as a medium, and the uniqueness of their winning films.

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