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6th annual Reel North Film Festival returns Nov. 6-8

The sixth annual Reel North Film Festival returns Nov.
Lisa Evasiuk, co-ordinator of the Reel North Film Festival, now works closely with current Thompson Public Library administrator Cheryl Davies (pictured below).

The sixth annual Reel North Film Festival returns Nov. 6 with a gala opening and presentation of five short films - including local filmmaker Zachary Cordell's The Santa Clause - at the Letkemann Theatre, says Lisa Evasiuk, co-ordinator of the Reel North Film Festival.

The doors open at 7 p.m.

Cordell's The Santa Clause is a two-minute film, which Cordell describes "a short 'mockumentary" on the "most elusive (and some say dangerous) creature of Northern Canada: The Santa Clause."

While the film is rated PG, it is not recommended for young children, Cordell said. The title, of course, has been used before in 1994 in the full-length Christmas comedy The Santa Clause, starring Tim Allen playing divorced father and businessman Scott Calvin, who finds himself contractually bound to become Santa Claus when he unintentionally puts on the previous Santa's suit.

Cordell, from Thompson, is a Reel North Film Festival regular. A short rough-cut version of his Ninjas of the Park was shown at last year's festival. The flick, still in draft form, was scheduled to be shown here May 9 at its full-length 55 minutes, but was cancelled at the last minute because of a last-minute technical glitch

Cordell's described Ninjas of the Park as "a no-budget epic about an apartment building full of ninjas and the kid who wishes he was one of them.

"Ninja Town, located in tropical Winnipeg Manitoba, is the site of the action as chess battles wage out of control in the park, ninjas project their souls out of their bodies only to have them stolen by other ninjas, kung fu battles and street fights break out and the cosmic ninja makes a mysterious appearance on the astral plains."Other shorts on the opening night program at Letkemann Theatre include "F" by Tyler Thomas from Toronto, Cattle Call by Matthew Rankin and Mike Maryniuk from Winnipeg and Finding the Groove by Michael Jasen from Toronto. "F" is a nine-minute film where the character, Michael Downey, a hack writer, has just begun writing his first novel and decides to give it a try on a weird, old typewriter that he has found.Cattle Call is 3.5-minutes in length and is described by the festival as "a high-speed animated documentary about the art of livestock auctioneering," structured around the "mesmerizing talents" of 2007 Manitoba-Saskatchewan auctioneer champion Tim Dowler. Finding the Groove is described as a nine-minute "love letter to the vinyl record." The Best of 2009 Cannes Lions International Advertising Winners will follow at 8:15 p.m. The two-hour reel, with English subtitles for some commercial spots, has Canada taking home 13 Cannes advertising awards in total. Five of those awards were for film. The 2009 reel includes approximately two hours of the world's best commercials.

The festival moves back to home base Saturday, Nov. 7 and Sunday, Nov. 8 in the Basement Bijou Room of the Thompson Public Library. At 1 p.m. Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo is showing. Set in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, two men forge a friendship that will change both of their lives forever during the 91-minute film. Solo is a Senegalese cab driver working to provide a better life for his young family. William is a tough Southern man with a lifetime of regrets. It is a story about friendship, the passing of generations, and the changing face of America.

Next up is Nicholas Hytner's The History Boys at 2:45 p.m. This movie tells the story of an unruly class of bright, funny history students in pursuit of an undergraduate place at Oxford or Cambridge. The story won critical acclaim as a stage production before it became a movie. At 7:30 p.m., it's Benoit Pilon's Necessities of Life, (Ce qu'il faut pour vivre) in French and Inuktitut (subtitles), telling the story of 1950's tuberculosis epidemic in the far North, which brings an Inuit man out of his home to the south where he meets a young Inuit boy also in hospital.John Jeffcoat's Outsourced follows at 9:30 p.m. The critically acclaimed hit of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) pokes some fun at both American and Indian cultures. An American call centre manager gets transferred to India to save his job. While there he makes many new friends. On Nov. 8 at 2 p.m., children under 12 get in free if accompanied and supervised by a parent with a ticket to see Sean B. Conly's Jabbawaki, a 12-minute animated fantasy that tells the story of a monster's love, and a journey of self-discovery.Conly, who spent part of his childhood in Winnipeg and on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, spent four years creating his first animated short, which won the Audience Choice Best Animated Film, Sprockets, TIFF for Children 2009.

That's followed at 2:20 p.m. by Mark Jean's Finn on the Fly, a madcap comedy filled with wild chases, mistaken identity and young romance. A shy 13-year-old has just moved to a new town. He tries his best to fit in, but most of the time he feels like his only friend in the world is his dog. Just when he thinks life can't get worse, the scientist living next door performs a genetic experiment transforming his dog.

At 7:30 p.m. it's Yann Arthus Bertrand's Home, a two-hour English language documentary almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places on Earth. It shows the diversity of life on Earth and how humanity is threatening the ecological balance of the planet. The movie was released simultaneously on June 5 across the globe and broke the world record for the largest film release in history.

Lastly, at 9:45 p.m. on Sunday night this year's Reel North Film Festival has its finale with Sam Mendes' 98-minute Away We Go, billed as a comedy where a couple expecting their first child travel around the United States in order to find a perfect place to start their family. Along the way they have misadventures and find fresh connections with an assortment of relatives and old friends who just might help them discover "home" on their own terms.

Reel North's mandate is to showcase a variety of Manitoban, Canadian and international films, bringing cinema to Thompson, which is rarely accessible otherwise in the North.

Corey Redekop, a former Thompson Public Library administrator, who was also a key organizer of the Reel North Film Festival, before re-locating to Windsor, Ont. described he importance of the festival in 2007 to the Citizen: "What has vanished from the (cinematic) experience is the possibility of a communal event, of a group of people simultaneously thrilled, horrified, or moved to tears through the art of visual storytelling, and having the prospect of discussion afterward.

"Such opportunities have become more and more rare as the years have passed, with the possibility of vanishing altogether from the cultural landscape a very real threat yet options still exist for the viewing of complex and challenging films in an environment designed for discussion and discover. The Reel North Film Festival is such an occasion, and one that should be seized by anyone who appreciates both good films and community. Here is a valuable chance to see such films as they were intended: on a large screen, in the presence of friends and neighbours, in an atmosphere of appreciation."

Redekop went on to note, "The world is rapidly becoming an insular place, with little emphasis on the importance of group activities (with the possible exception of sporting events). The Reel North Film Festival offers the chance to congregate with people who appreciate the challenging, the offbeat, and sometimes the bizarre. It is a rare treat to watch such films with an appreciative audience, and such opportunities should be seized upon with relish."

Evasiuk, co-ordinator of the Reel North Film Festival, now works closely with current Thompson Public Library administrator Cheryl Davies, as she did with Redekop, and a Reel North Festival Planning Group that this year also included Janet Brady, Doug Krokosz, Richard Smith, Ken Shaw, Simone Krokosz, Norm Martin, Alda Graham and Kevin Forbes.

The film festival is sponsored by a number of organizations and individuals, including in part by Vale Inco, the City of Thompson and Film Circuit, a division of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, whose mandate includes providing filmgoers in "under-served communities, transformative experiences through access to Canadian and international independent films they would otherwise not have the opportunity to see."

With over 190 groups in 166 communities across Canada, Film Circuit is intended to help the Toronto International Film Festival Group building markets and audiences for Canadian work.

As well as it annual three-day film festival in early November, Reel North Film Festival has also branched out over the last two years with Saturday night movie double features, which usually run from December through May once a month.

The Saturday night movie double features debuted on March 8, 2008 so film buffs wouldn't have to wait an entire year until the following November and the next full three-day festival to see festival genre films. The double feature Saturday nights proved popular when they debuted with Into the Wild and Once, both released to critical acclaim in 2007.

Also, last February, the Winnipeg Film Group, a non-profit founded in 1974, brought five short commissioned films to a Reel North Film Festival Saturday movie night to set the stage for a Thompson showing of Canadian fantasist Guy Maddin's award-winning and critically acclaimed feature-length My Winnipeg.

In celebration of its 30th anniversary in 2004, the Winnipeg Film Group commissioned five of its most accomplished filmmakers, who have come through its ranks, to create a short film. Initially envisioned around the theme of the filmmaking process, each of the participating filmmakers interpreted this mandate broadly and the resulting movies span the spectrum of cinema-from animation to comedy, and dramatic to experimental.

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