The dark, cold days of winter have a way of making many of us want to get cozy and watch a good movie. Which is why, from February 18 to 20, the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus will once again host the Nordlys Film & Arts Festival.
The festival, which takes its name after the Norwegian word for northern lights, showcases films from Alberta and all around the world. This year’s lineup includes films from seven countries, a Gemini-award-winning documentary, a collection of shorts and a Hollywood classic.
Dozens of films have been reviewed by the organizing committee members along the way to establishing the final line-up. "The film selection process is very long, but well worth it," says Steven Hansen, a member of the festival’s organizing committee. "We’ve put together a program that will take the audience on a journey across cultures, time periods, and emotions."
At the helm of the film selection process is local filmmaker Hans Olson, the festival’s chair of film selection. Olson’s 20-minute long film Champagne will be shown along with other shorts on Saturday, February 19. Champagne was screened at both the Toronto International Film Festival and the Edmonton International Film Festival in 2010.
Each feature film at Nordlys will be rated by an audience poll conducted immediately after the viewing. The polling process gives audience members a chance to voice their opinion on their favourite films. Last year’s audience favourite was Ce qu’il faut pour vivre (English version entitled The Necessities of Life), a moving Canadian film about an Inuit man diagnosed with tuberculosis in the 1950s. The movie was Canada’s contender for the 2009 foreign language Oscar.
In addition to boasting a carefully-selected group of films, the festival will feature an art walk showcasing works from the Camrose Arts Society and U of A Augustana students. There will also be performances by local musicians throughout the festival.
"While the films are at the core of the festival, we really try to frame the festival around engaging people with the arts, with a focus on local talent," says Hansen. "Music and visual art really enhance the festival’s atmosphere and they help us in our goal of sharing the experience of the human story."
The festival kicks off on Friday, February 18 at 6:30pm in the Faith and Life Centre at the Camrose campus with an unconventional black and white wine and cheese reception. The organizers encourage everyone to wear black and white in whatever fashion they see fit. Wine will be served at a cash bar, and guests will be entertained by Augustana alumna and jazz pianist Jenie Nolan.
"From tuxes to t-shirts, anything black and white goes on Friday night," says Hansen. "Creativity is encouraged. I think it’s a great way to set the tone for the weekend. The goal is for people to participate on whatever level they wish."
The black and white opening night gala, along with many other festival traditions, traces its roots back to the Pretty Hill Film Festival, an event hosted for ten years by the family of Verlyn Olson. Eventually, the festival outgrew the Olson residence, at which point U of A Augustana engaged a volunteer committee to help expand the festival into a new and unique cultural event for the community.
Following the 8:00 pm opening ceremonies, the first film will be shown at 8:30pm in the Chapel, which will be transformed into a movie theatre for the weekend. The opening film is Broke., a documentary from Gemini-award-winning filmmaker Rosie Dransfeld. Set in an Edmonton pawnshop, Broke. won the prestigious 2010 Donald Brittain Award for best social-political documentary at the Gemini Awards. Rosie Dransfeld will be in attendance for the screening and will participate in a short Q&A session after the film.
The festival is scheduled so that people can attend anything from a single film or the whole weekend. Many past attendees discovered that the atmosphere can be addictive, and that plans to view just one film can quickly turn into plans for a whole day or two.
In addition to typical movie snacks including popcorn, supper will be available: pizza by the slice on Saturday and the Augustana cafeteria will be open for supper on Sunday. The organizers hope that with food available on site, movie watchers will decide that there’s no reason to go home until the last film is over.
The Nordlys Film and Arts Festival concludes on Sunday with closing ceremonies at 8:00 pm at Augustana. Following the ceremonies, all film-goers are invited to attend the Rose City Roots Music Society‘s presentation of The Mahones at Scalliwags at 9:00 pm. The Mahones are on tour promoting their new album The Black Irish. Their song "Paint the Town Red" was chosen to appear in the Hollywood film The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Tickets for The Mahones show are $20. Students pay $10.
More information, including the festival schedule and summaries of the films, is available on the festival’s website.
There are also volunteer opportunities at the festival. Anyone interested in volunteering please email us.
Ticket prices for the festival are $20 for a full weekend pass and $10 for a single day pass. Students pay half price. Tickets will be sold at the door.