First-timers at FilmExchange

The Winnipeg film festival is set to unspool the northern noir That Beautiful Somewhere and a behind-the-scenes doc about the making of Beowulf & Grendel

Three first-time feature film directors, including Sarah Polley, Larry di Stefano and Robert Budreau, will showcase their directing chops at the ninth annual NSI FilmExchange Canadian Film Festival this month in Winnipeg.

NSI director of programming Liz Janzen notes that the festival — put on by National Screen Institute – Canada — has a tradition of screening features by first- and second-time directors.

‘This year there’s such a breadth of topics and emotions across the seven feature films… it’s quite a delicious lineup,’ she tells Playback Daily.

Di Stefano’s dark comedy Love and Other Dilemmas, Polley’s drama Away from Her and Budreau’s neo-noir thriller That Beautiful Somewhere will unspool as part of the feature film contingent. Polley will also take part in the ‘A Conversation With…’ interview program.

Budreau says he’s hoping to boost That Beautiful Somewhere, which stars Roy Dupuis as a detective in northern Ontario, prior to the film’s theatrical release in April. ‘We’re focusing on the French market since Roy is such a star in Quebec,’ he says.

Meanwhile, director Jon Gustafsson’s Wrath of Gods, which makes its Canadian theatrical premiere at NSI, is the only feature documentary screening at the fest this year. A short version of the doc, about the treacherous conditions in Iceland during the making of Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf & Grendel, aired on CBC Newsworld in November.

‘I got a great reaction,’ Gustafsson says on the phone from Iceland, where he is currently in post-production on the Icelandic version. ‘Part of the financing strategy for the film was to sell a shorter version to CBC.’

Other feature films at FilmExchange include director Matt Bissonnette’s drama Who Loves the Sun, Andrew Currie’s zombie flick Fido and Quebec director Jean Beaudin’s drama Sans elle.

Fest-goers can also get their fill of Canuck short films. Fifty-six shorts in all will be screened in what has become ‘one of the highlights of the fest,’ according to Janzen. NSI FilmExchange runs Feb. 28 to March 3.