Yorkton Film Festival celebrates 65th anniversary

By: Shaunna Grandish April, 2012

Cultural Areas

Arts

Bright lights will be shining on Yorkton this May as the city welcomes film-lovers from across the country. This year, the Yorkton Film Festival, which bills itself as the longest running film festival in North America, will be celebrating its 65th anniversary on May 24- 27, 2012.

“It’s an exciting time for the Yorkton Film Festival,” says Randy Goulden, director of the Yorkton Festival. She says, “Many activities will be taking place during the festival to commemorate its 65th anniversary. A display of historical photographs from past festivals will be shown and screenings of three short films that have gone on to receive Oscar nominations are just a couple of special events featured at this year’s festival.

In addition to visiting filmmakers, delegates and the general public, this year’s festival will also host past festival founders and leaders as part of anniversary celebrations.

“People enjoy coming to Yorkton because it’s laid back,” explains Goulden.

Celebrations have already started in the months leading-up to the big event in late May. The festival has hired a researcher to catalogue the film festival’s history on its website and will be screening past festival films around the province.

A big turnout is expected for the festival. Over 100-150 filmmakers and delegates are expected to descend onto the small prairie city at the end of May. Over the duration of the festival, attendees have a choice to view about 300 short films, which showcase talent from across the country.

The festival also hosts major networking events for filmmakers hoping they could strike deals with broadcasters from across Canada. Since the Yorkton Film Festival is smaller in size compared to other film festivals, filmmakers have a greater chance of direct interaction between themselves and broadcasters, Goulden explains. The film festival also serves as a way for films to qualify for other festivals and for the Gemini and Genie Awards.

“It’s been thrilling getting to know everyone in the film industry,” says Goulden, who has been the film festival’s director for the past four years.

When the film festival initially took off 65 years ago, some people weren’t enthusiastic as to the event’s long-term chances at success. Established by volunteers in 1947 originally as the Yorkton Film Council, the film festival was the first of its kind in North America. Many at that time considered Yorkton to be too small and too isolated for a major film competition to be a success.

Apart from geography, the festival has had to deal with some other challenges over the past several decades, such as a fire destroying Stan’s Avalon Studios in the late 1950s and the advent of television in the 1960s, which caused festival attendance to plummet. However, because of the determination and innovation of staff and volunteers over the years, the Yorkton Film Festival will be celebrating its 65th anniversary this year.

“The longevity of the festival is due to the volunteers and boards who have a passion for film,” said Goulden. “This year we will be celebrating that.”

The Yorkton Film Festival has beaten the odds over the past 65 years and that is giving people a reason to celebrate. For more information about the Yorkton Film Festival, please visit: goldensheafawards.com