In its 11th year, the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival launches Wednesday with a boost from a super-popular movie franchise.
Just after Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 had an opening weekend worth $340 million, Chaske Spencer (who has played werewolf Sam Uley in the films since New Moon in 2009) is a triple-threat at the fest, speaking to kids this morning at the pre-festival education day, acting as keynote speaker at the official opening Wednesday evening, and representing, along with actress Tantoo Cardinal, the Canadian première of the drama Shouting Secrets, WAFF's opening-night film.
"We booked Chaske (pronounced chess-kay) in May," says WAFF artistic director Coleen Rajotte, crediting a member of the WAFF staff who contacted him via Facebook "and told him all about our festival.
"We dealt with all his agents in New York and we've got him booked," Rajotte says in a phone interview.
Naturally, having a Twilight star has boosted the visibility of the fest on social media, Rajotte says, adding WAFF 2012 will also benefit from being centralized at the Garrick Centre downtown.
"This is also the first year we've been able to have all of WAFF in one venue, everything from our workshops to screenings," she says. "It's pricey, but after 10 years, we're at the point where we can afford to have the entire festival there."
The fest should also benefit from a lineup of provocative feature films, including:
-- Shouting Secrets (Theatre 1, Wednesday at 7 p.m.), a drama about a dispersed and alienated family coming together after the family matriarch (Tantoo Cardinal) suffers a stroke.
-- Smoke Traders (Theatre 1, Saturday at 7 p.m.) is an examination of the controversial First Nations tobacco trade from the Mohawk perspective.
-- Smokin' Fish (Theatre 1, Sunday at 7 p.m.) is a documentary about a Tlingit man who returns to his home community in Alaska to relearn the traditional art of smoking fish.
-- Path of Souls (Friday, theatre and time to be announced). Winnipeg director Jeremy Torrie (producer of Cowboys and Indians: The J.J. Harper Story) reunites with star Adam Beach for a drama about a widow who journeys to sacred sites throughout North America to complete her scientist husband's thesis related to traditional native knowledge and quantum physics.
-- More Than Frybread (Theatre 1, Friday at 7 p.m.) is a documentary about a competition that brings together 22 representatives of federally recognized tribes in Arizona to compete for the title of Best Frybread.
"The humour in that movie is something people will go crazy for," says Rajotte. "A couple of days ago, a local bannock-making company contacted us and they're coming to the screening to hand out free bannock to 600 people. "We're a truly aboriginal film festival. we're even giving out bannock."
Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival 2012
Wednesday to Sunday
www.waff.ca for tickets and full schedule