‘From Away’ film competition seeks stories about making a home

The Atlantic Film Festival is inviting postsecondary students to submit their interpretations of Canada as a nation, and the role of immigration in building that nation. Entrants must either be from or attending school in one of the Atlantic provinces. They do not need to be film students — anyone with an interest in visual storytelling is encouraged to submit. The deadline is June 30, 2017.

According to Wayne Carter, the executive director of the Festival, the competition was designed to fill the student-shaped gap in their programming. The Festival already has events directed towards professional filmmakers, the general public and youth (kids grades 7-12). ‘From Away’ is an opportunity exclusively for post-secondary students, and promises the finalists a great deal of exposure. The winning films will be screened at the Atlantic Film Festival and taken on tour around Atlantic Canada and the Grand Prize Winner also gets a trip to the TIFF Opening Night Gala. The plan is to make the competition a recurring program, maybe with different topics, in order to give student filmmakers a launchpad for their careers.

The name of the contest comes from a colloquial phrase across Atlantic Canada for identifying outsiders. “From away” is not exclusively a negative expression, but it is usually the choice phrase for the fool who left the house with an umbrella, thinking that it would come in handy during a typical east-coast sideways downpour. When a four-foot snowdrift has blocked the front door, it’s always someone from away who forgot to pick up storm chips. Last summer, Scott Brison, a Nova Scotian MP, even called for a ban of the term, claiming it is offensive to the potential economic growth that newcomers could bring. Carter, however, does not give much weight to the pejorative connotation to “from away”. He is adamant that the festival is above all meant to be inclusive: “It’s only negative if you make it negative, and the reality is most people who are here come from away.”

Of course, not everyone is from away. The entire Canada 150 celebration has been criticized for ignoring the fact that Aboriginal peoples have been living here for much longer than 150 years, so the whole birthday party kind of stinks of colonialist calculation. But as Carter points out, everyone in Canada has some experience of people from away.

Though this competition is not specifically eliciting films about experiences of colonialism that would seem to still fit the theme, the competition is designed so that people’s ideas about Canada 150 are not restricted by complicated rules or technological limitations. Given how good you or your friend’s iPhone is, Carter says that creating a polished film for this competition is “within anyone’s grasp.”

For contest rules and more information, visit http://www.atlanticfilm.com/from-away-film-competition.