Available Light Film Festival going 'mostly' online

·4 min read

The Available Lights Film Festival got underway in Whitehorse yesterday and this year's version, as with most events taking place during the pandemic, will be different.

Most events will be livestreamed and available for viewing online, but festival goers will also be able to attend 19 events in person.

"People can see movies on the big screen at this festival," said festival director Andrew Connors.

He said about 75 people will be able to attend movies being shown at the Yukon Arts Centre, which will have physically distant seating.

He said the festival will be showing more than 60 films and will have a much-expanded program online.

Paul Tukker/CBC
Paul Tukker/CBC

"Any artist talks, concerts — we have a cooking class in the last week of the festival, like a live cooking class with a chef who is in one of the documentaries — all of those things will be livestreamed," Connors said.

"And then we record them and put them up on our platform so people can watch them anytime after the event has happened."

Connors added that there will be two or three in-person question-and-answer sessions with the director, which is one of the popular features of the festival.

He said most of those sessions will be virtual with filmmakers from across the country.

Opening night

The festival started last night with the screening of Beans by Tracey Deer.

The semi-autobiographical film is the coming-of-age story of a 12-year-old Mohawk girl during the 1990 Oka Crisis.

In the beginning of the 78-day crisis, Deer, who was 12 at the time, thought it was fun as she and her friends rode their bikes everywhere.

"I thought it was awesome, until I started to experience the violence and the hate directly," she said.

At one point, there was a rumour in the community that the Canadian army, which was surrounding it, was going to invade and take down the barricades.

I thought it was awesome, until I started to experience the violence and the hate directly. - Tracey Deer, Mohawk filmmaker, about the 1990 Oka Crisis

The community decided to evacuate the women, children and the elderly. A caravan of about 200 cars carrying them crossed a bridge that Mohawks had been occupying. At the other end, they were met with an angry mob who hurled rocks and pieces of asphalt at them.

"And that, for me, was the moment that everything changed," Deer said.

"I never want something like that to happen again. And I just want our kids to grow up safe and to grow up feeling that they have a place in this country. And in order to do that, we as a society have to change. So this film is my contribution to that effort."

The screening of Deer's debut feature was followed with a virtual question-and-answer session with Deer that was broadcast live in the Yukon Arts Centre.

Yukon films and other highlights

Connors said the festival will show "12 pieces" of Yukon cinema, which will include films and media art exhibitions that he describes as pop-up galleries.

"There'll be four TVs at four different businesses downtown that will have work on loops," he added.

Connors said the festival will show the world premiere of a new short documentary film, Until Further Notice, by Tiffany Hsiung about a Toronto chef who started doing weekly online cooking classes after he lost his job during the first wave of the pandemic.

"The film sort of goes to people's houses, but not in their house," Connors said. "The filmmakers interview people at their kitchen window."

"[The documentary] does a really clever job of integrating sort of these home cooking classes and then people's individual stories."


Connors also pointed out two films that were co-directed by Vancouver filmmaker Jennifer Abbott, New Corporation, and a documentary about climate crisis grief entitled The Magnitude of All Things We're Doing.

"We've got … a film about the mayor of Ramallah, called Mayor, that's actually very funny," Connors said.

"Think of black comedy. He's a super charismatic person."

Connors said tickets for the in-cinema films are available through YukonTickets.com. Information and tickets for the online events are available at alff.ca.

The festival runs from Feb. 5 to 22.