The Talent Fund-supported Micro-budget Production Program feature films continue to succeed in Canada and internationally, screening at festivals, winning awards, and earning well-deserved recognition.

The Sun At Midnight, written, directed, and produced by Kirsten Carthew, and produced by Amos Scott, recently won two Leo Awards in Vancouver for Best Picture Editing Motion Picture (Jamie Alain) and Best Musical Score Motion Picture (Richard Walters). And, at the Bentonville Film Festival, co-founded by Geena Davis and Trevor Drinkwater in Arkansas, The Sun At Midnight was awarded Best Narrative by Jury!

“The Talent Fund supported Micro-budget Production Program funding made the film possible,” Kirsten says regarding The Sun At Midnight, about a lost teenage girl and a hunter seeking missing caribou, who become friends. “Telefilm’s funding dollars triggered a NWT film rebate funding initiative, which along with our partner, the Gwich’in Tribal Council, achieved our full budget. Having the backing of Telefilm has opened industry doors down south, boosting the credibility of the film and ourselves as filmmakers. Telefilm’s support has further shined the spotlight on the emerging film community in the Northwest Territories, and the success of The Sun At Midnight is now an example of what is possible for other NWT filmmakers.” “It is a fantastic experience to receive recognition from an esteemed jury and a pioneering festival dedicated to the advancement and championship of women and diverse voices,” Kirsten says about her Bentonville award. “There are so many genuinely fantastic films being made today that to be recognized among them – and to stand out – is a massive honour. I am proud of The Sun At Midnight; a film that is about perseverance and was made out of perseverance, and represents a first for myself and for the filmmaking community in Canada’s Northwest Territories. This award represents an extraordinary opportunity to share and showcase The Sun At Midnight with a global audience. For that I am thrilled.”

Sweetening the thrill, Meg Ryan presented her award. “Meg Ryan is an iconic actress, as well as a director and champion of filmmakers. To be presented this award by Meg Ryan is mind-blowing…and was admittedly also unbelievable for a week or two!”

Meg Ryan presenting the Best Narrative by Jury Award to Kirsten Carthew at the Bentonville Film Festival in May 2017. Photo credit: Bentonville Film Festival

“I now look forward to fully making use of the opportunities afforded to me as a result of this award and the attention it brings,” Kirsten says. “The BFF win comes with the opportunity for a theatrical release in the US as well as retail distribution via Wal-Mart. The negotiation of those details is being undertaken by our distributor, IndustryWorks Pictures. For myself, the win provides a communication channel to industry representation in the US and other countries, who are now interested in my next projects. We are also working with IndustryWorks Pictures to have a theatrical release in Canada later this year.”

At the Whistler Film Festival, The Sun At Midnight (Jill and Jackfish Productions) won Best Performance in a Borsos Film for its lead actress Devery Jacobs. It was voted Best Picture by youth juries at Vancouver’s Reel 2 Real International Film Festival for Youth and Winnipeg’s Freeze Frame International Festival for Kids. “The Sun At Midnight is set at the Arctic Circle and tells a small story that is specific enough to be universal and have meaningful impact,” says Kirsten about the film, which recently had its European premiere at the Czech Republic’s Zlín Film Festival, and will screen at Australia’s Sydney Film Festival this month. “The proof is that it is being embraced by audiences in Canada, in the US, and around the world.”

The Sun at Midnight movie trailer: https://vimeo.com/183361379

Nearly ten months after its world  premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Werewolf‘s success continues. Having just had a week-long theatrical release in Toronto at the Carlton Cinema (that began June 2), the film, about a couple recovering from drug addiction, received a four-star review in The Globe and Mail, in which film critic Barry Hertz called the film “one of the all-time-great Canadian first films”  on par with debut features from some of Canada’s most beloved and most successful filmmakers.

In another glowing review, the National Post’s Chris Knight calls it “an assured piece of storytelling”.

On the home front, Werewolf recently won Best Feature Film at the 2017 Screen Nova Scotia Awards! Since both Ashley McKenzie (writer, director and producer) and Nelson MacDonald (producer) were travelling to international festival screenings of their film, including its US premiere at the Maryland Film Festival, they were unable to attend the Screen Nova Scotia Awards event in Halifax on May 4 but sent a very personal note for the award acceptance. “Our singular goal with making Werewolf was to create something authentic to the place we’re from,” they wrote in the note. “Thank you to our entirely Cape Breton cast and entirely Nova Scotian crew for making that possible. It was an incredible experience to drive to work each day in the small town we grew up in and work alongside many people we’ve known our whole lives.”

Ashley McKenzie at the Maryland Film Festival with Director of Programming Eric Hatch. Photo credit: Hugh Gibson

To recap the success to date, after it premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, Werewolf was selected for this year’s TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten, and has been making the rounds at select theatres across the country as a result. (In March, it also had a theatrical release in France, Belgium, and Switzerland (through distributor Ligne 7). The film’s international momentum includes recent screenings at the Berlin International Film Festival (its European premiere), Buenos Aires Festival of International Cinema, IndieLisboa International Film Festival, and Maryland Film Festival, after which it was positively reviewed within this piece in The New Yorker, written by Richard Brody.

In Canada, Ashley was awarded the Jay Scott Prize for Emerging Talent by the Toronto Film Critics Association, and the film has won many awards, including Best Atlantic Director, Outstanding Performance by an Actress (Bhreagh MacNeil), and Outstanding Performance by an Actor (Andrew Gillis) at the Atlantic Film Festival; Best First Film by a Canadian Director and Best Actress in a Canadian Film at the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards, and Best Feature Film in the Focus Québec/Canada section at the Festival du nouveau cinéma. Werewolf was nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards and screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Werewolf movie trailer: https://vimeo.com/183498198