Circumpolar Arctic Film Festival

The Circumpolar Arctic Film Festival brought together film festival directors from across the Arctic who together showcased films from their festivals, engaged in dialogue about northern films, and advanced film festival cooperation between northern regions.

Event Participants

  • Roger Bergström – Arctic Light Film Festival [Sweden]
  • Jay Bulckaert  – Dead North Film Festival [Canada]
  • Hrönn Marinósdóttir – Reykyavik International Film Festival [Iceland]
  • Antti Martikainen – Arctic Heat Film Festival [Finland]
  • Sunna Nousuniemi — International Sami Film Institute [Norway]
  • Martha Otte – Tromso International Film Festival [Norway]
  • Nina Paninnguaq S. Jacobsen – PaniNoir Films [Greenland]
  • Rebecca Pottebaum – Anchorage International Film Festival [Alaska]
  • Pablo Saravanja – Yellowknife International Film Festival [Canada]

Event Highlights

The Circumpolar Film Festival included ten full-length films each suggested by our invited film festival organizers to showcase highlights from their home country film festivals.  Additionally, there were four curated shorts program: Alaska Shorts, Dead North Shorts, Northern Shorts, and Northern Documentaries.  Films were shown at the Anchorage Museum (both inside and one outdoor program) and the Alaska Experience Theater.  Altogether, over 250 individuals attended screenings over the weekend.  In some cases, film directors were present and offered Q&A sessions following their film screening. A nearby VIP experience was structured so that visiting DJs could connect with one another and film festival directors.

Panel Discussion Summary

The panel discussion focused on the economics surrounding film festivals as well as which images are produced and consumed as part of Arctic cinema.  Nearly all the film festival organizers stated that their film festivals occur in the winter since it is “the slower season of the year” and the festival has potential to “bring life” to the local community.  Likewise, given the winter season, many film festivals include an outdoor component such as a snow cinema (e.g. movies shown on a snow wall).  Several of the film festival organizers discussed creative means for showing films outdoors that they hope to actualize in future years.

The discussion then turned to “Arctic” or “Northern” films as a genre.  Sunna Nousuniemi from the International Sami Film Institute raised the issue of how many films celebrate rather than perpetuate stereotypes of indigenous peoples.  Pablo Saravanja of the Yellowknife International Film Festival stated his hope that films produced in the circumpolar north will be in “direct opposition to reality TV, which has been most of what the world imagines when they think of the North.”  At the same time, the film festival organizers agreed that a majority of Arctic films are dark, but in the sense that they celebrate the harsh realities of the North and attempt to re-appropriate what is meant by “the Arctic.”

Future Research and Opportunities

  • How are film festivals supported and funded?
  • What kinds of events happen around the festivals to support the local economy?
  • How many full time jobs are produced from this industry
  • Training program for this sector: Teach individuals how to curate a film festival as a job opportunity in the creative economy
  • Build a cohort of film festival director/organizers that participate in a year-long training program together.
  • Create “northern film venues” as part of residency of public build: sauna cinema idea

Example projects:

  • Dead North ( who participated with us offers an excellent example of a training program for first-time filmmakers to produce films about the circumpolar north and learn how to market their films.  It would be interesting to replicate this program throughout the region.

Meet the Directors

Roger Bergström – Arctic Light Film Festival [Sweden]

Already at the start of the festival Kiruna was a film city (Kiruna Film Studio was founded in 1954). Arctic Light Film Festival driven by a compound and entirely of volunteers. Since its inception, the range and number of festival days increased. The festival holds now a little over a week and we have a wide range of films that accommodates all genres. World premieres is not at all unusual for the festival. We also show all the films produced in the region. Filmpool Nord is thus a natural partner. During ALFFs existence we have managed to establish a contact with the film people locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, including in Eastern Europe.

Jay Bulckaert  – Dead North Film Festival [Canada]

Jay is the creator and President of the Dead North Film Festival, and a founding member of the NWT Professional Media Association. Jay has been able to work with some of the North’s highest profile clients and projects: Arctic Air, Ice Pilots NWT, Dene: A Journey, BHP Community videos, Alex Debogorski (Ice Road Truckers) and Juno Award winning songstress Leela Gilday, to name a few. Jay is also a writer and has been published in UpHere Magazine, Ascent Magazine, Edge YK Magazine and VICE Magazine.

Jay Bulckaert

Hrönn Marinósdóttir – Reykjavík International Film Festival [Iceland]

Hrönn Marinósdóttir has been the Director of the Reykjavik International Film Festival- RIFF, from its foundation in 2004. She was previously a journalist and has been giving lectures on cinema at the University of Iceland and other schools.

Hrönn Marinósdóttir

Antti Martikainen – Arctic Heat Film Festival/Film Centre of Central Finland [Finland]

Arctic Heat Film Festival is a film festival concentrating on Nordic film culture from Jyväskylä, Finland. The film festival is held on the campus area of the university of Jyväskylä, in the building Ilokivi. The purpose of Arctic Heat film festival is to provide its visitors choices and experiences by screening quality films from the Nordic countries. Arctic Heat aims to support, improve and promote the status of Nordic films within the Finnish culture scene.

Sunna Nousuniemi – International Sami Film Institute [Norway]

Sunna Nousuniemi (born 1993) is a Northern Sámi from Finland who works as a project coordinator for International Sámi Film Institute in Norway. She has been working in the indigenous music and film festival industry since 2014 and alongside her position at ISFI she works as a producer for Skábmagovat Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival in Finland. In January 2017 Nousuniemi was elected as an actual board member for the Sámi Council’s Cultural Committee for 2017 – 2021.

Sunna Nousuniemi

Martha Otte – Tromso International Film Festival [Norway]

Situated in the Arctic Circle in Norway, Tromsø hosts the northernmost festival on the international film festival calendar. The event has seven venues, including one open-air cinema in the snow. In addition to the movies, on lucky days you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. In terms of audience size, it’s the biggest film festival in Norway, boasting an excellent programme of celebrated films on the festival circuit, as well as Scandinavian premieres and talks.

Martha Otte

Nina Paninnguaq S. Jacobsen – PaniNoir Films [Greenland]

Nina was born and raised in Greenland. She has worked in the creative industry since 2010, primarily as a producer, where she has gained experience with productions in film, tv, photography and various cultural projects. She has both local and international collaborators, and one of the most important tasks of PaniNoir is to remove challenges, as well as streamline productions in all aspects of the industry.

Nina Paninnguaq S. Jacobsen

Rebecca Pottebaum – Anchorage International Film Festival [Alaska]

Rebecca is the Festival Director of the Anchorage International Film Festival, and is an active community organizer in the arts in Alaska. She loves the connective power of storytelling and the transportive nature of film festivals, having attended festivals all around the world. She has been a volunteer for the Sundance Film Festival for five years, and is a documentary screener for the American Film Institute’s AFI DocFest in Washington, DC. She holds a certificate in nonprofit management and a BA in studio art, and currently works at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska.

Pablo Saravanja – Yellowknife International Film Festival [Canada]

Pablo was born and raised in the Northwest Territories. His professional career began at the Western Academy of Photography where he studied photojournalism, and continued at the Gulf Islands Film & Television School, where he produced his first film, the award winning short doc AFTER THE WAR. Pablo is a sought after Northern expert in documentary and reality TV, photojournalism, media-arts advocacy and education. He is personally invested in developing a healthy film and television scene and thriving art-filled North.

Pablo Saravanja