The Long And The Tall Of It.
written by Gerald Saul.

I've just returned from my first trip to the Yorkton Film Festival in a number of years. I didn't actually plan to attend but suddenly I was asked to go to the awards banquet for free, present an award and write an article for Playback so I decided not to buck fate. The last time I was there, I don't think I really enjoyed myself. I don't really remember what I didn't like, but that I didn't feel it was a good use of my time. However, I have an completely contrasting opinion of the festival this time around. Perhaps it was me, having been to Toronto and so on. Perhaps it is my revitalized obsession with watching every experimental film I can get my eyes on. Perhaps it is because I was more interested in making contact with people, reuniting both with Toronto friends I recently left behind and re-establishing contact with those I've returned to. I don't know. I just know that I regret that I was only at the festival for one night. I had a wonderful time.

I asked Stephen Onda to summarize his feelings about the festival and he told me that "by being nestled in the midst of a community, Yorkton is a festival that can't help but keep you honest". These is an interesting approach, one which I suspect a number of other producers take. For the filmmakers who have films entered, I believe the festival is more of a meeting place, allowing each of them to meet other filmmakers who may or may not share their approaches to the cinematic arts. This is inevitable based on the range of filmmaking styles and categories being judged.

Standing Still by Catherine Quinn won the prize for the best experimental film. Quinn, whose background lies in fine art and video, got into film through an interest in film loops. As I have been very fascinated with loops recently, I asked her about this work. Apparently her series was site specific with the loops projected onto architecture, making comments on that architecture. This new film by Quinn crosses over with documentary as she interviews a number of older women in an attempt to discover things about what we all know and who we all are.

A number of entries from the Quickdraw animation group in Calgary caught my eye. Carol Beecher's Ask Me blended scratch animation and flicker effects to create a marvellous two minute "event". I was completely drawn in as the film silently progressed from thick black emulsion to a nearly emulsionless surface, coloured only occasionally with markers. Also from Quickdraw was Wayne Traude's Movement of the Body which was a dissolve animation based on a lengthy series of life drawings. The combination of the study of the body with the meditative music reminded me of the later works of Maya Deren.

I've know Martin Kondzielewski since those ancient days of film school. This year he was nominated for the first time under the category of best cable production for Fighter Pilots!. He was telling me that he's been to the awards event a number of times, but only as imported labour between the cable stations (he's with Cable Regina). According to Martin, it is much more fun to be in front of the camera than behind it. Good luck getting out there again next year.

Many people felt that actor/wrestler Brett Hart was an unusual choice for master of ceremonies at the awards presentation. I thought it might be appropriate for the awards envelopes to all be thrown out and instead have the nominees fight for the wrist-breakingly-heavy Golden Sheaf statue on the stage in front of the crowd. Hart could referee the bouts and give pointers to the underdogs. I chatted with him about the Flinstones for a while afterwards, he is a pretty cool guy and brought a lot of life to the awards event.

All in all, a fun time.

Gerald Saul 2005