2017 Nordlys Film & Arts Festival

Program cover of the Nordlys Festival

Program cover of the Nordlys Festival

We attended, for the first time ever, the 8th annual Nordlys Film & Arts Festival here in Camrose at the historic Bailey Theatre downtown. The word Nordlys is Norwegian for northern lights-aurora borealis.

Although we didn’t purchase the all-inclusive pass, since we were unable to attend Sunday’s offerings, we opted for a Friday pass, which included the opening ceremonies and two films, as well as music from local musicians Stephen Olson, and Tigs & Whisky.

The first film, entitled “Pawn Sacrifice,” originated from the USA in 2016. It’s executive producer was former Camrosian, Dale Armin Johnson, who was present for the film and a Q & A afterwards. The film is described as a “Biographical Drama,” telling the story of American chess prodigy, Bobby Fischer, played by Tobey Maguire. “Pawn Sacrifice” is a thoughtful study of the narrow line between genius and madness. The film intersperses clips dating back to the Cold War 1970s of Fischer and others, as well as borrowing music from that time from musicians such as Credence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane. The film is both a reasonably accurate portrayal of superpower rivalry in the Cold War period as well as a statement about the tragic destiny of a chess genius.

The second film was “Ida,” originated from Poland, and described as a “Drama.” Ida is a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland. The film follows her life journey as she meets up with an aunt who travels with her to discover that she is Jewish and her parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation of Poland. A rather sad, sober, and tragic film in every respect.

On Saturday we purchased tickets for the afternoon Alberta Short Docs. They were absolutely marvellous! I was thoroughly impressed with three of the seven short docs.

My favourite short doc was the first one, “We regret to Inform You…,” directed by Eva Colmers and Heidi Janz. The film highlighted how narrow and exclusive government bureaucrats can define and apply their criteria regarding who is or is not eligible for disability funding. The film features a day in the life of Ph.D. scholar Heidi Janz, and is a legitimate critique of government policies regarding the differently-abled.

The second short doc was entitled “The Grasslands Project: Life Out Here.” It focussed on four ranching and farming women in southern Alberta, portraying their life and times. The film addresses themes such as the role of farm and ranch women,  isolation and the need to improvise and be independent as well as neighbourly in order to survive, the freedom, beauty and joy of the open prairie rangeland, and more.

My third favourite short doc was “Classic Camera.” The title is actually the name of a camera store in Edmonton. The store is run by an 85-year-old gentleman, Wally Franiel. The store is full of non digital cameras and equipment from bygone days, although some still choose to use these old cameras. Wally is a wonderful eccentric, who enjoys telling many a tale.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Nordlys festival, and hope to go next year as well.

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