A Race to the Wire: DARK HORSE wins Leacross Foundation “Best of Fest” Award

Dark Horse won the Wakefield Doc Fest “Best of Fest” award for 2017 by the incredibly slim margin of .06 over Quebec: My Country, Mon Pays.

And on that happy note: that’s it! The 8th Annual Wakefield Doc Fest has ended, with great revelry. It was a BEAUTIFUL Spring-like day on February 26, 2017 in Wakefield, Quebec, and still, a great huge crowd of dedicated film enthusiasts decided to sit in a dark theatre instead of enjoying the temporary release from winter for our final screening, DARK HORSE. Could it be that they had heard of the fantastic gourmet snacks being prepared by our chef, Alison Scott, for the Closing Gala following?

Well possibly. True to her modus operandi, Alison prepared fantastic grub in keeping with country of origin of the film: Welsh rarebit, for instance, and miniature Yorkshire Pudding bites and Bara Brith. Yum!

Although the audience did also enjoy the film with great enthusiasm. So maybe it wasn’t all about grub. Or maybe it was a perfect package. Cependant, l’auditoire a été ravi de voir le film. Donc ce n’était pas seulement la bouffe qui rendait heureux. Ou peut-être s’agissait-il d’une combinaison parfaite?

Our dedicated audience stayed with us – well, yes, sometimes in smaller numbers – through a couple of snowstorms during this year’s festival screenings. Including one remarkable evening, after a day of snowing and snowing and snowing, when 40 hardy individuals watched the extraordinary and thought-provoking THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES and had a terrific Q & A with Scottish director Mike Day. When you think that most people didn’t get out of their driveways that day!

We have always acknowledged that this weather business was the drawback to having a festival in February in Canada. But this time of year is also kind of perfect for taking a bit of time to view documentary films, even those most contentious and thought-provoking, and to talk about them with filmmakers, experts and fellow filmgoers. Some have called it a lifeline in the black dog days of winter.

Over this year’s festival, we had 20 screenings for 12 films – 50% more films than last year. As usual – and as per our mandate – we programmed panel discussions, Q&As with the filmmakers and other visitors, and other opportunities for participation, so that our audience’s experience might be enhanced. Starting with our Opening Gala, SO THAT YOU CAN STAND, with Senator Charlie Watt and filmmaker Ole Gjerstad in attendance, and continuing with Skype talkback meetings with filmmakers like Kevin McMahon (SPACESHIP EARTH), Mike Day (THE ISLANDS AND THE WHALES) and Nettlie Wild (KONELINE: OUR LAND BEAUTIFUL), our audience was taken on a journey through many landscapes and perspectives and responded with thoughtfulness and vigour.

And we ended back at home, with a tremendous talkback with director John Walker following QUÉBEC: MY COUNTRY, MON PAYS, in which French- and English-speaking Québecois explored their differing experiences of our shared history. This remarkable, very personal film seemed to resonate deeply with everyone – we expect the conversation around QUÉBEC: MY COUNTRY, MON PAYS to continue in weeks and months ahead.

Water ecosystem experts joined us for discussion of levels of plastic in local water systems after A PLASTIC OCEAN, human/animal history experts discussed their work after UNLOCKING THE CAGE, and probably the most affecting visit was from Julie Jolicoeur, a medically-retired paramedic, who attended with Dillon, her PTSD service dog, after the screening of PRISON DOGS. As always, lots of opportunities to commune and discuss at the Wakefield Doc Fest.

Next up is the Wakefield Doc Fest Weekend in the fall. Mark your calendars! We’re booked into the Centre Wakefield La Pêche for the weekend of 22 – 24 September, 2017 to screen our second themed weekend mini-festival of recent, feature-length, internationally acclaimed documentary films. News of the theme will be coming shortly.

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