Local flicks steal show at Nickel Festival

Justin Brake
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Those who attended the Nickel Independent Film Festival this year were exposed to a meaty, quality contingent of Newfoundland and Labrador flicks.

With films by Gerry Rogers, Lois Brown and Justin Simms, Roger Maunder, Jordan Canning, and a score of emerging talent, the event is likely to go down in the books as a memorable one as the festival approaches its 10 anniversary.

Mark Power starred in Ten Days by local filmmaker Christian Sparkes. Sparkes took home the emerging N.L. filmmaker award from the Nickel Independent Film Festival awards gala Saturday night. Submitted photo

Those who attended the Nickel Independent Film Festival this year were exposed to a meaty, quality contingent of Newfoundland and Labrador flicks.

With films by Gerry Rogers, Lois Brown and Justin Simms, Roger Maunder, Jordan Canning, and a score of emerging talent, the event is likely to go down in the books as a memorable one as the festival approaches its 10 anniversary.

"The whole reason the Nickel was founded was to show local films," festival executive director Ruth Lawrence told The Telegram after the awards ceremony at the Gypsy Tea Room Saturday night.

"You can see from year to year how filmmakers grow," she explained. "Someone like Jordan, someone like Christian (Sparkes), someone like Roger, who started the festival. You can see how their careers are starting to grow. It's great because it really kind of pulls up the other filmmakers and it makes them reach a (higher) quality level."

Among the local winners was Canning, who picked up the audience choice award for her latest short film "Countdown," Christian Sparkes, whose short comedy "Ten Days" earned him the award for emerging N.L. filmmaker, and Brown and Simms, for their collaborative effort "Heartless Disappearance into Lab-rador Seas," which took best N.L. film.

Winning the award for best film was a meaningful honour for Brown, who was hospitalized this time last year after being hit by an SUV while working in Vancouver.

"Whether you agree with awards or not, getting one is great," she laughed over the phone from her home Sunday afternoon.

After accepting her award, Brown said she climbed up on a chair to address her friends and colleagues.

"I had my cane, but I was still determined to get up on that chair," she said with a chuckle. "Really, you don't have to say a whole lot because it's kind of like you're just sitting in your living room with your family, and that's why it's such an important and wonderful award to get."

With the relocation to Memorial University's Inco Innovation Centre from LSPU Hall downtown, organizers were unsure as to what size of crowds the screenings would attract.

According to Lawrence, the larger venue resulted in record attendance on opening and closing night due to its 320-seat capacity.

"We definitely saw a different kind of crowd there ... and that's a good thing because we want to feel like we're making films for people to enjoy, not just for each other," she said.

"There were lots of familiar faces, the filmophiles. But I think we really did manage to reach some (new) people this year."

The Horror Night late screening Thursday was bolstered by the premiere of young local filmmaker Justin Madol's short horror flick, "Date with the Dead," which starred Andy Jones and other local actors.

"It was amazing," said Lawrence, adding the screening attracted about 120 people. "It stood on par with those other films and it was an audience favourite for sure."

The children's matinee screening on Saturday afternoon managed to pull in a smaller crowd of about 60 people, but was an improvement from last year's poor turnout.

"It wasn't a really strong program so we lost our audience last year," explained Lawrence, "but they came back in spades this year."

Other award winners at the Ninth Annual Nickel Independent Film Festival included: "Desert Trains" (best drama), "Elephants" (best animation), "Throw Me to the Rats" (best music video), "Land Gewinnen" (best performance), "Magritte Moment" (special jury award for the spirit of independent filmmaking).

With three Nickels under her belt as an executive director, Lawrence said this was her most exciting yet. But her mind's already on the 10th anniversary in 2010.

"We've got some nice plans that we haven't unveiled yet," she said. "When you're celebrating your 10th anniversary you don't want to forget where you came from, and we won't. But at the same time there's room to look forward and reach a little bit higher."

Organizations: The Telegram, Inco Innovation Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Vancouver

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