If the endless line-ups and sold-out shows were any indication, the 2nd annual Dreamspeaker's Festival was a hit.
"It was nice to see those long line-ups," says Loro Carmen, the festival's executive director. "We sold out crowds in the theatre, and ran out of product many, many times. We were very pleased."
Carmen says preliminary figures suggest more than 27,000 people took in the entertainment at Churchill Square and select theatres during the three-day event, beating last year's daily average nearly 2,00 per day.
"We had a lot more people show up than we thought we would," she says.
That was evident during the evening of August 26 when 450 people showed up
for the premiere screening of Medicine River at the Edmonton Public Library's 257 seat theatre. After waiting for an hour in line, impatient move goers were held up even further at the door ill-prepared ticket takers. However, the fist class entertainment delivered that night more than made up for the minor inconveniences.
Films Silent Love, about a lower Kootenai man dying of AIDS, and a slick CBC Prime Time news documentary on Medicine River author Thomas King preceded the screening of his much-awaited film, which got underway with stars Jimmy Herman and Dakota House in the audience.
The film, to be televised October 17, stars Graham Greene and Tom Jackson, with bit parts Herman and House, and is a delight to watch. Greene plays an international photo journalist who returns to his reserve upon learning of his mother's death. Once in town, Greene looks for his brother, who has vanished.
A quirky Tom Jackson quickly takes Greene under his wing, and through friendly manipulation, throws Greene into the centre of a number of unwelcome yet hilarious situations. Humor about stereotypes of natives as well as whites runs rampant throughout the good-natured film, and it nails the small town gossip scene on the head. Definitely one for the VCR.
More than 20 performers carved up the day time activities, including the Edmonton Aboriginal Cultural Society which performed drum songs as traditional and grass dancers weaved back and forth on the ground below the stage. Ladies jingle dress dancers performed traditional dances to the drum, and a special song was sung while Jerome Youngchief of Long Lake and his daughter put on a stunning display of traditional hoop dancing.
The festival's final offering of films at the EPL was bit of a wash out, saved only the premiere screening of Spirit Ride. An uncomfortable MC Ralph Makokis improvised masterfully when scheduled storyteller Richard Yellowbird failed to show.
The short film Haircuts Hurt, about racism, not only featured bad cinematography, but lousy script writing as well. Its heavy reliance on symbolism failed miserably, its set was as phony as a three-dollar bill, and none of the actors were convincing. Why this film was chosen remains a mystery.
Fortunately, the evening was capped off with Spirit River, a film about the repatriation of a sullen young man who spent his life in a number of foster homes. Starring Herbie Barnes, Gordon Tootoosis, Michele St. John, Tantoo Cardinal, Tom Jackson and Graham Greene, the film explores the sense of community and belonging Jessie Threebears (Barnes) unwittingly experiences while going through a painful repatriation to a lifestyle, people and grandfather he knows nothing about.
Despite the festival's numerous organizational gaffs, the audiences were appreciative and impressed with the quality of entertainment. Sherman Lewis and Lawrence Merasty of Edmonton took in two full days of events, and were delighted with what they saw and heard.
"The entertainment on the whole has been pretty good," Lewis said. "I think they should be funded."
Marilyn Luck wasn't bothered the constant political reminders of the festival's financial plight. "I think it's a reasonable thing to do," she says. "Considering what I've seen, I think they should be funded."
Statements like that aremusic to Carmen's ears. Last year, the festival ended up $65,000 in debt and struggled to get Dreamspeaker's '93 off the ground. While it's too early to tell exactly how the festival did financially, Carmen says, "from what I've seen, I think we're operating in the black."