A longtime media professional who has mentored the industry and provided sound and film production for decades received special attention during the second annual NWT Film and Media Awards Gala, on Saturday night.
The event was a highlight of the Yellowknife International Film Festival, recognizing various artists throughout the North. This year it was held at the Raven’s Mess at the Joint Task Force North. Awards on Saturday night were presented in nine categories. including four new ones. Each winner received a handmade award created by Rosalind Mercredi.
Jean-Francois (Jeff) Pitre of PIDO Productions was the recipient of the Industry and Impact Award, the event’s premier distinction. The award goes to those “who have contributed immensely and continuously to the media industry in the NWT,” said Jen Walden, president of the Northwest Territories Professional Media Association.
Walden noted Pitre’s mentorship of media professionals since PIDO was founded in 1983, his support of businesses, non-government organizations and government agencies, as well as his numerous productions of audio and films, particularly for the Legislative Assembly and for events like Folk on the Rocks.
“I came here pretty young and never looked back,” Pitre said in his acceptance speech. “I’ve been to 62 communities from Iqaluit to Whitehorse.”
Pitre said he has done his best to help other companies and media upstarts over the years and has evolved with the technology since the beginning.
“The industry hasn’t changed that much other than the medium that you record on it,” he said. “I was using o reel-to-reel, black and white half-inch when I started (then) three-quarter inch, video cam. But even that is getting old now.”
Best Published Word, one of the new awards, went to Weronika Murray for her photojournalism piece called Beyond What Our Instruments Can Tell us: Merging Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science at the Edge of the World in The Narwhal website.
Another new category, Best Piece – VR/360/Interactive, went to Northern Sights VR Reality Project by Western Arctic Moving Pictures.
The Best Commercial Non-Government award went to Jimmy Thomson for the Slave River Paddlefest.
Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North accepted the award for Thomson, who was not present.
“It is like the ad says, Slave River Paddlefest is worth the drive,” Johnson read from a statement prepared by Thomson. “This was my first ever promotional video so I’m super grateful to be nominated for this. Thanks to Slave River Paddlefest for taking a chance on a journalist to make an ad.
“Seeing this video come on in the theatre before The Avengers (Endgame) was my glory.”
Thomson also won in the Best Short Documentary category for An Inuk Comes Home Through Art, which appeared in the Narwal earlier this year.
In the Best Commercial – Government award, NWT Fire: How We Do Business was the winner with the GNWT Department of Environment Natural Resources, Artless Collective and Aerials North the shared recipients.
Another new category, which went to Best Radio/Podcast, was won by Janna Graham for a piece called The Sled Runners. Graham explained in her acceptance speech that her story was commissioned for a public radio station in Germany.
“It is so good that we are working on telling our own stories,” she said. “There is so much talent here and people should reach out to broadcasters if you’re in radio and pitch stories. Or with film.”
Angela Gzowski of Angela Gzowski Photography won in the Best Published Photo category with Northern Perspectives on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Dayah Films won in the Best Short Narrative category for the film Three Feathers. Director Carla Ulrich dedicated the 45-minute film, based on a story by Richard Van Camp, to the community of Fort Smith. The story is about three boys in a small community sent to live on the land for nine months with elders after committing a shocking crime.
“I just want to dedicate this film to Fort Smith,” she said. “This was like Richard’s love story/letter to Fort Smith.”
Ulrich said a big part of the movie’s success was that many local residents took part in the making of the movie.
“The majority of our actors have never acted before and the majority of our team had never worked on a film before,” she said.
The festival, now in its 13th year, ran from Nov. 5 to 10 and included 12 films and two short programs. There were also numerous workshops, exhibitions, information sessions and discussion panels throughout the week.
Walden said the media association is glad to support the festival by holding the awards and gala night as well as contributing to the professional development and Pitch This! as part of the five-day event.
The latter $10,000 pitch competition was won by Jiah Dzentu.
“We were thrilled with the festival and how the festival was put together and I thought the films were great this year,” Walden said, noting that Red Snow’s debut featured media association members and local filming was one positive aspect.
“There were a lot of Northern films in the festival this year – like Summer of Smoke and Salvage,” she added. “The huge variety of northern products, people, associations and industries, were big and shows how much growth we are seeing in our industry.”
Festival director Jeremy Emerson said he was pleased with the increase in participation from last year.
“I thought the festival went really well,” said Emerson. “We had better attendance from the previous year and we had a lot of local content for the films. Workshops were well attended, especially on Sunday with Jesse Wente and Marie Clements, director of Red Snow.
“I was overall pretty happy with the awards went out and people being recognize across the territory. ”
Jesse Wente, one of the guest speakers from outside the territory took part in one workshop called Indigenous On-screen Protocols and Pathways Roundtable at the Champagne Room on Franklin Avenue, Sunday.
A panel of speakers also included Marie Clements and film officer Amos Scott and discussion focused on the On screen Protocols & Pathways: A Media production guide with Wente, director of the Indigenous Screen office. The document, created by imagineNATIVE earlier this year, details suggestions for best practices for filmmakers in Indigenous communities, representation of Indigenous people and Indigenous storytelling in filmmaking.
The discussion also touched on potential for Indigenous filmmaking growth in Canada.
“We were looking at the Pathways Protocols document and meaning and inspiration of how it can function in the industry,” said Wente. “It is really about creating a best practices around right relations between storytellers and Indigenous communities and Indigenous stories.”
Wente said he was impressed with the turnout and the opportunity to engage with local people in the industry.
“The festival seems great and it seemed well attended,” Wente said following the discussion “I worked on a film festival for a few years and this is always what you want.
“To be honest we haven’t done this kind of presentation at a lot of film festivals … and I think it is really great Yellowknife Film Festival is taking an interest in this given where they are and where based and communities they serve.”