As Canada celebrates 150 years of confederation, April 19 has been appointed National Canadian Film Day. Presented by Canada on Screen and Reel Canada, National Canadian Film Day has been dubbed “The world’s largest film festival. Ever.” They’ve compiled a list of 150 films and have invited everyone to participate with over 1,700 screenings of Canadian films taking place across the country. Can’t make a film screening? No problem. They’ve set up TV screenings with major channels such as APTN, Movietime, and Super Channel, plus webcasts for schools, and free online streaming of certain titles. Reel Canada claims their 150 films is “not a ‘best ever’ list. But the films on this list do reflect the vast range of stories that Canadians tell.”
As part of National Canadian Film Day, The Sunshine Coast Film Society is bringing the film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner to the Coast for three free screenings. Atanarjuat is a 2001 film based on an ancient Inuit legend and is directed by Zacharias Kunuk and written by Paul Apak Angilirq, who grew up listening to retellings of the legend. Angilirq spent five years interviewing elders, getting their version of the story and combining them into one screenplay, reflecting the importance of oral tradition in Inuit society. Filmed in Nunavut, Atanarjuat is the first feature written and acted in the Inuktitut language. It became one of Canada’s most celebrated films, winning 20 awards, including eight Genies and the Caméra d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. It was also a commercial success, beating out Men With Brooms as Canada’s top grossing film in 2002, earning more than $5 million US worldwide. “It was an obvious choice,” says Doug Dyment, President of the Sunshine Coast Film Society. Of the films on the 150 list, Atanarjuat was one the Society hadn’t screened before. “Screening commercial films is quite an expensive proposition,” adds Dyment. “The opportunity to have this cost underwritten for a classic Canadian film was too good an opportunity to pass up.”
The film follows Atanarjuat and his small community in Canada’s north. Trouble starts when Atanarjuat takes Atuat as his wife, even though she has been promised to the son of the community’s leader. What follows is “A culturally accurate tale of love and revenge,” says Dyment. “It’s truly a spellbinding story, a landmark in Canadian film history.”
Free Screenings of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner take place Wednesday, April 19 at Raven’s Cry Theatre at 2pm and 7pm and at the Gibsons Hertiage Playhouse at 7pm. More info at: scfs.ca and canadianfilmday.ca.