VIDEO: Polar bears, art house film win big at international festivals

Campbell River filmmakers honoured for recent works

Two filmmakers hailing from Campbell River have been honoured for their cinematic achievements at festivals in the United States and England.

Michael Stevantoni, who graduated from Carihi Secondary School in 2014, won recognition for his first feature-length film at a festival in Chicago.

Michael Stevantoni.

Desert Shores won this year’s Stanley Kubrick Award for Best Feature in the US category at the Blow-Up International Arthouse Film Festival, which showcases works by creative independent filmmakers.

The world premiere of Stevantoni’s film is scheduled for Nov. 11 at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Centre, as part of the festival. The 22-year-old filmmaker directed, co-produced and co-wrote the film, basing it on a collection of short stories called Salton Sea by George McCormick, according to a media release.

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The actual Salton Sea – not a true sea, but a polluted saline lake located amid the desert sands of southern California – is where Stevantoni shot the film over the course of 12 sweltering days in 2015. A drama, it tells the story of a man chasing the American dream amid the tensions of post-9/11 America.

He raised money for the project using Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform, and a media release said that he was “grateful to friends and family in the Campbell River community who contributed.”

Meanwhile, Ian Kerr’s short film, titled Churchill, won the Cinematography Award in the category of small budget films at this year’s Wildscreen Festival. You can watch the short here:

Story continues below video.

It was produced by Storm Films Inc., the Vancouver-based production company that Kerr runs with partner and producer Carmen Kerr.

A blurb on the Wildscreen website bills the seven-minute film as an “experimental visual poem dedicated to the town and polar bears of Churchill, Manitoba.”

Ian told the Mirror that he was trying to break conventional rules with the short film.

“The film doesn’t tell a standard narrative (an editor described it as a ‘poem’) and I sought out to intentionally leave audiences wondering what they’d seen,” Ian said in an email from Churchill, where he’s about to start work on another film about polar bears.

“The feel, I hope, is very much what I experience up in the north behind the lens.”

Ian Kerr with partner and producer Carmen Kerr.

In April, the New York Times published the short film on the newspaper’s website. It’s accompanied by an essay written by the filmmaker touching on the difficulties of life in Churchill in the age of climate change, the perils faced by polar bears, and the difficulty of conveying complex ideas and feelings in film.

READ MORE: Local cameraman wins an Emmy

The award for Churchill is the latest in a series of honours for Ian. He’s also the winner of an Emmy, a Gemini and a number of other accolades.

Ian, who is also a Carihi graduate, also had some advice for young people from Campbell River interested in a film career. First, he said, get ready.

“Get in shape before the expedition calls,” he said. “Take your wilderness first aid course now. Learn to tie knots. Find out what gloves work best on your hands with a camera.”

He stressed the importance of using free time wisely. Watch good films and, more generally, be selective in your media diet because “it will be reflected in your work,” he said.

He also noted that Campbell River is a prime location, and that young people can leverage that kind of opportunity in their work.

“Find the incredible story you pass by in your walk to school or work – people in Berlin and Shanghai will be amazed with what is in your backyard,” he said.

Finally, he noted that people like helping sharp young people.

“Be sharp,” he said.

Corrections: An earlier version of this story stated that Michael Stevantoni’s film is called Desert Storm and that he graduated from Carihi High in 2004; the title is Desert Shores and he graduated in 2014.

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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Campbell River’s Michael Stevantoni won this year’s Stanley Kubrick Award for Best Feature in the US category at the Blow-Up Arthouse Film Festival. Image from michaelstevantoni.com

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