The Sun at Midnight Feature Film
“The Sun At Midnight” is a love letter to the land and speaks to the ways nature supports mental wellness and personal growth. This is the first feature film to feature Gwich’in people, land and values in lead roles (in either the US or Canada, where Gwich’in peoples have their traditional territory in both countries). -Margaret McCraffrey, Attendee, ImagineNATIVE Film Festival, October 2016.
This 93-minute feature film is a coming-of-age story set in the Gwich’in community of Fort McPherson and the surrounding mountains. It has many firsts and is the result of a seven-year collaboration (2009-2016) between the GSCI (now GTC Department of Cultural Heritage, “DCH”) and screenwriter, director and producer Kirsten Carthew. The film was produced by Kirsten Carthew and co-producer Amos Scott of Jill & Jackfish Productions in association with the DCH.
Among the film’s many firsts: it is the first feature film written, filmed and produced in the Northwest Territories, with much of the filming being on Gwich’in traditional lands near the Arctic Circle, and including Gwich’in actors and a community in key roles – Fort McPherson. The film is an Indigenous adventure film about a young Gwich’in teenager raised in the south and sent north to stay with family in Fort McPherson following the death of her mother. She tries to escape by boat to the nearest community, becomes lost, and encounters a Gwich’in hunter who reluctantly takes her under his wing teaching her about Gwich’in culture and skills needed to survive in the bush. The tables are turned when he is seriously injured by a bear attack and it is her turn to save them both.
Alongside Indigenous actors Devery Jacobs (Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Mohawk Girls) and Duane Howard (The Revenant, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee), the film stars local NWT acting talent: William Greenland, Sarah Jerome, Laura Firth, Shayla Snowshoe, Jaclyn Roberts and Paul McKee. Staff from the GSCI/DCH, Sharon Snowshoe, Ingrid Kritsch, and Alestine Andre became involved at the script stage – and along with Elders and community members - have actively championed the film, been cultural advisors and provided assistance (including core funding) since 2009. As a result, GTC and these staff in particular have been acknowledged as Associate Producers.
The world premiere of The Sun at Midnight was held in Fort McPherson in September 2016 followed by two sold out shows in Yellowknife during the Yellowknife International Film Festival in October 2016. Since then, the film has travelled the world being shown in film festivals across North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China, Singapore and most recently Russia, receiving much critical and audience acclaim. As of March 2018, the film has won seven awards including best feature film, best actress, best editing, and best musical score. It is being distributed by Industry Works Pictures Inc. and is available on the Movie Network.
Our hope is that the film will open the door to more feature films being created in the Northwest Territories in future, bringing new opportunities to Gwich’in and other communities and telling stories from a northern perspective.
Funding for The Sun at Midnight was provided by Telefilm Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Gwich'in Tribal Council.