Yorkton looks back, pushes forward

Sixtieth edition of the long-running Prairie festival opens with a visit from Allan King and Gordon Pinsent at a screening of Who Has Seen the Wind

The Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival is looking back at Saskatchewan’s filmmaking roots — while continuing to nurture new talent — as it marks its 60th anniversary this week.

A special screening of the 1977 classic Who Has Seen the Wind, which shot in the province, will open the festival on May 24, with director Allan King and star Gordon Pinsent in attendance and participating in a Q&A following the film, which is based on the book by W.O. Mitchell about a young boy growing up on prairies during the Depression.

‘This film is responsible for kick-starting the local film industry here,’ explains festival executive director Fay Kowal. ‘So while the overall theme of the festival this year is the celebration of our 60-year history, we also thought it was important to celebrate the history of our province’s filmmaking industry. Who Has Seen the Wind is not only an important part of Saskatchewan’s filmmaking past, it also inspired a new generation of filmmakers.’

Around 150 delegates are expected to head to Yorkton, which is in southern Saskatchewan, for the four-day event that holds the distinction of being North America’s longest continuously running film festival. In recent years, the festival has turned its focus to developing film and TV talent by offering more professional development opportunities for emerging producers, directors and writers.

King will host a master class on directing at the festival, taking a look back at his 50-year career as a filmmaker. There is also a lifestyle and factual entertainment workshop with Naela Choudhary and Dorlene Lin, producers of Food Network Canada’s I Do… Let’s Eat!; Susan Flanders-Alexander, supervising producer of HGTV’s Designer Guys; and Merit Jensen Carr, executive producer of Vision TV’s Recreating Eden.

At a speed-dating-style pitch session, delegates have five minutes to talk up their new projects to industry reps, including CBC executive producer Kevin Teichroeb, CTF president Valerie Creighton, CTV western development manager Robert Hardy, APTN acting program officer Erin Myran and SCN program manager Joanne McDonald.

Over 400 films have been entered in the annual Golden Sheaf Awards competition, which recognizes the best Canadian film and TV productions under 60 minutes in length. The awards gala on May 26 will hand out prizes in 19 genre and 16 craft categories.

The festival is also hosting several commemorative screenings: a look back at Golden Sheaf Award winners over the festival’s 60-year run, a Saskatchewan Film Pool 30th anniversary film retrospective; as well as screenings of some of the 2007 Golden Sheaf nominees. Yorkton will also host the premiere of four short docs made by emerging aboriginal filmmakers through the First Stories: Saskatchewan training program.