The Edmonton Short Film Festival expands with smaller events throughout the year, including this Black History Month event
By Cory Schachtel | February 23, 2023
For almost 20 years, Candace Makowichuk has been a local non-profit superhero, executive directing local arts organizations and helping expand them into the institutions we know today. She was the first director of Harcourt House, helping move it from a rental facility into a public, artist-run centre. She then went to the Art Gallery of St. Albert, which had a single gallery program and small children’s program — she left it with seven permanent staff, a $500,000 budget, 11 arts programs and a children’s program that reaches up to 20,000 children per year. She then helped SNAP Gallery (again as executive director) set up in the Great West Saddlery building (it has since moved). All the while, Makowichuk maintained a professional arts practice while working as a sessional instructor at MacEwan University in the arts and cultural management program for 12 years.
Today, she’s the first executive director of the Edmonton Short Film Festival (ESFF), using her superpowers to expand its programming and connect more people with Albertan-made films. That includes this Thursday’s Black History Month celebration, part of the Local Heroes Film Festival, which works under the annual Edmonton Short Film Festival’s umbrella to showcase filmmaking talent throughout the year.
The idea behind the Local Heroes Film Festivals is to do smaller events, Makowichuk explains. “That’s helped us put on events with COVID restrictions the last few years, but it’s also because we get so many amazing films each year, and we’re only able to screen so many at the one-day festival. So this is a way of being able to showcase some of the other films that we receive.”
Makowichuk says Alberta’s film sector is strong, and is hoping people are starting to realize it, “because we’ve got some pretty amazing filmmakers here in the community.” Most independent filmmakers create short films, because every minute cost money, so it’s a much more accessible medium for independent filmmakers. She says more, smaller events help bring the films directly to the community. “They’re short, and they’re always free. And these stories are about us. They’re made by Albertans, and they tend to be a little bit more reflective on our issues, our stories, and our identities. For this week’s event, we’re celebrating Black History Month with a selection of films about Black people.”
Which is your go-to Christmas movie?
13%Miracle on 34th Street
20%A Nightmare Before Christmas
4%Jingle All the Way
Black and Blue deals with interracial relationships way back in the ’50s and ’60s. The main character is a blind man who falls in love with a Black woman, and music brings them together. 1000 Brazils of Truth is directed by Sheena Rossiter, an internationally acclaimed local filmmaker, who partnered with Sandro Silva, from Brazil. “Valécia Pépin was actually in the sex trade,” Makowichuk says, and her film, Illusion: The Fear, tells the story of a woman who thinks she’s been freed from her pimp.
“And Nauzanin Knight has been doing a lot of work here in Edmonton. She’s made a really beautiful little two-minute film on the exploration of beauty and self-worth in Black woman called Shades of Worth.”
Watch all the films playing at Stanley A. Milner library this Thursday, then stay for a Q and A with four of the directors.