Two movies created by Foothills residents captured the attention of audience members at Calgary’s annual film festival last month.
Just Another Beautiful Family, a film about a transgender dad and his family, won the Calgary International Film Festival’s Audience Choice Award for Alberta Short, and The Root of the Problem, about a family that inherits a unique gift, won Audience Choice for Alberta Feature.
Audience Choice Award winners are based on the collective score of audience ballots collected at each screening.
The award was a pleasant surprise for Millarville filmmaker Margot McMaster.
McMaster and her crew produced the 90-minute feel good family film The Root of the Problem about a family who inherits a money tree from a deceased relative. Filming took place in Calgary and the Foothills last fall.
The film stars Canadian actors Sergio Di Zio, of the Canadian police television series Flashpoint, and Claire Rankin, who performed in the feature crime drama Molly’s Game. Di Zio won Best Actor at the International Christian Film Festival in Orlando and was nominated for Best Actor and the film nominated for Best Film at the Canadian International Faith & Family Film Festival in Toronto earlier this year.
“We thought we had a special little film and I guess that just put the stamp on it,” said McMaster. “The thing that made it so great is the community of Okotoks and individuals in Calgary really supported it. It was just an overwhelming fantastic effort by everyone.”
McMaster directed and produced several documentaries and television series, yet The Root of the Problem is her first feature film, which was produced by her twin sister Carolyn.
Her latest project was the 2016 documentary The Caravan Film, which follows an eclectic group of international carriage drivers and horse riders as they journey from California to Florida. It won the grand prize at both the Amsterdam Film Festival in the Netherlands and the EQUUS film Festival in New York.
The Root of the Problem is based on a book written by Sylvan Lake author Joanne Sikma, whose son, Scott, of Calgary, directed the movie.
“It’s a wonderful little film,” McMaster said. “I think it’s really going to go places.”
McMaster hopes to develop a television series out of The Root of the Problem, with Sikma having written a number of episodes.
“It’s in the works,” she said. “It’s a long process to develop anything into a series.”
Okotoks’ Nick and Katherine North and their children starred in the 19-minute documentary Just Another Beautiful Family, which tells the story of how love and living a normal life is possible for transgender people like Nick, who struggled with his identity since childhood.
It was the family’s first crack at filmmaking, so their win was unexpected, said Katherine.
“We were astonished, to be honest, just completely flabbergasted and delighted – just so delighted and so moved and so touched,” she said. “We certainly weren’t expecting to win an award. I think it’s a sign that we are all opening our minds and hearts. I think it’s a beautiful thing.”
The North family was selected by STORYHIVE last fall to produce a documentary about their family to air on TELUS Optik™ TV On Demand and storyhive.com.
They received $50,000 to create the documentary, which was released on YouTube on Sept. 30 at beautifulfamiliesproject.com
The short film features the family’s normal life doing dishes, making supper and reading bedtime stories, intertwined with Nick’s recollections of not feeling right as a female and his physical transformation in recent years to become male with Katherine by his side every step of the way.
“We really just opened up our hearts and our home and our family to the world and it was really scary,” admitted Katherine.
Katherine said she and Nick braced themselves for backlash last month after experiencing their share of online haters.
“We were prepared in case that were to happen, but what’s been amazing is that instead we have been met with this incredible outpouring of support,” she said. “It definitely lets us know that we would really like to make more projects in this same vein. We would love to expand to bring attention to all kinds of underrepresented and non-traditional families, not just LGBTQ families.”