Nordlys gives platform for local stories
The Art of Living produced by Bashaw filmmaker Ben Wilson chronicles the life of local artist Ed McFadden. The documentary will be a part of the Nordlys Film and Art Festival’s Alberta Shorts series on Feb. 17. Supplied
It took one trip as a spectator to the Nordlys Film and Arts Festival for Ben Wilson to become a convert.
The Bashaw filmmaker was convinced almost instantly of the importance of the stage the annual smorgasbord of acclaimed international and local films provides.
His film The Art of Living will be among the four works screened in this year's Alberta Shorts series during the Feb. 16-18 festival at the Bailey Theatre in Camrose.
"It's incredible in these small communities in rural Alberta … there is so much talent that people do not know about," said Wilson. "We have people who write, people who paint, people who make films, people who make music, people who have all these skills and talent and art within them that needs to be shared. To have venues like Nordlys and the Bailey Theatre in Camrose is just incredible. It's something that we as a community and as a society really need to value and support."
Organizers recently unveiled the lineup for this year's festival which will feature nine full-length films from around the world in addition to the Alberta Shorts series.
The Act of Living is a 27-minute documentary that focuses in on the life of Ed McFadden, a 91-year-old, legally blind artist from Bashaw. This is Wilson's first festival-level production.
McFadden was a painter and produced commercial quality signs until his eye-sight failed him 30 years ago. He can still see to a degree but his paint supplies have been put into storage. Instead he has channeled his creative energy into dancing and is a regular at Bashaw's dances at the Majestic Theatre.
"He has all of these reasons to be isolated and alone and to shut down and he's done the exact opposite," said Wilson. "He chooses to live such a full life through going to all of these dances and he'll join family at dinner parties and regale everybody with stories from his adventurous life."
Originally Wilson had planned to focus in on the lively group of seniors keeping old time music breathing in Bashaw, but when he came across McFadden, he knew where his focus was going to be.
McFadden has led an extraordinary life. He grew up on a farm outside of Bashaw but lived in the mountains and lead fire suppression crews in B.C. and later on a boat off the coast of Vancouver Island. He and his family eventually settled back in Bashaw. He has the innate ability to spin a yarn like few others with stories from his life.
"He's such a great, charismatic story teller that anyone who is around him is drawn to his gentle character and demeanor and storytelling," said Wilson. "He's sitting there, he can't even see who's in the room but everyone is hanging on every single word."
What really hit home for Wilson while working on this project was how humble McFadden is, and has given him a new approach to the world around him.
"It's inspired me to take more pleasure in the simple things in life and to appreciate them and to not always believe life has to have these grand, big, successful things to be a significant life," he said.
That human element is an overriding theme in many of the films that will be screened at this year's event, this especially includes the Alberta Shorts series on Saturday afternoon. Aaron Munson's Deceiver gives a five-minute a look at depression. Dylan Rhys Howard's Peak Oil gives a peek inside the life of a laid off oil worker as he struggles through life and insecurities as he returns home. Meanwhile the documentary Lift, directed by Katrina Beatty follows the story of a grounded second world war pilot's search for his true sense of self after the war.
Canadian feature documentary Birth of a Family, named Best Documentary at the Edmonton International Film Festival headlines Sunday's films. The movie tells the story of four Dene siblings who were taken from their family during the "Sixties Scoop" and how they were brought back together and their current path of healing and rebuilding their family. The film was edited by Hans Olson, formerly of Armena.
The festival will be kicked off by award-winning picture Virgin Mountain, directed by Dagur Kari on Feb. 16. Other movies include Faces Places, a look at the ordinary people who make up France and directed by Agnes Varda and JR.
2016 Academy Award nominated movie for Best Foreign Language Film A War, directed by Tobia Lindholm, examines battlefronts at home and abroad for a Danish peacekeeper stationed in Afghanistan.
In Jafar Panahi's Taxi, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi portrays himself as a taxi driver on the streets of Tehran. The film gives an inside look into life in Iran's capital city and earned the Golden Bear Prize as best film at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The Good Heart is another Kari directed film and focuses on the relationship between the owner of Jacques, the owner of a gritty New York dive bar, and a homeless man named Lucas whom he takes under his wing.
Also screening will be 1929 Academy Award winning film Sunrise; the Francois Ozon directed drama Frantz; and Chuck, directed by Philippe Falardeau, which takes a look a boxer Chuck Wepner, the real-life inspiration for the movie Rocky.
Early bird tickets are on sale until Jan. 14 and are available at www.nordlysfestival.com.