Skip to content

Okotoks Film Festival bringing the show online again

Virtual launch party to be held on May 1 at 7 p.m.
SCENE-Film Fest BWC 1772 web
Sisters Shawna (left) and Alyssa Koski are Okotoks filmmakers who have submitted their animated film "A Gourd Head's Lesson in Humanity" to the Okotoks Film Festival. The festival kicks off with a launch party May 1 at 7 p.m. online, and the festival will run June 3-6.

The digital curtains will rise once again for the Okotoks Film Festival, now in its fifth year.

“Our big thing coming up is on May 1, we’re doing a launch party of the film festival, we’re announcing the lineup and what all our events are going to look like,” said festival director Katie Fournell.

The film festival itself will also be online again, running June 3-6 with scheduled live-streamed screenings.

“We’re going to have a few filmmakers pop in to talk to us, show a few trailers, and we’ll explain our lineup and workshops, which are really exciting this year,” she said.

Run on an interactive broadcast platform, audience members will be able to interact during the launch via a chat window embedded in the page.

“We also have a brand new event that’s coming this year called the Film Find,” Fournell continued.

The Film Find will be a scavenger hunt, anchored to businesses and other places in Okotoks, with more details to be announced at the May 1 launch event. 

“Our hope is maybe it lets people see and discover places in town and see some fun art," she said.

While the festival runs June 3-6, viewers will be able to watch some of the content outside of that window,

“We will have an online on-demand component this year, which means people can tune in whenever they want for certain films from May 30 to June 12,” she said.

Returning to the festival’s screen once again are the Koski sisters, Shawna and Alyssa, who have run films in each year since the event’s inception.

This year the two are fielding a stop-motion animated feature named A Gourd Head’s Lessons in Humanity, featuring a gourd that has been brought to life as a person.

“It’s a film about a gourd that spontaneously comes to life and has to learn about what it means to be human,” said Shawna, who did the animation, filming, and editing of the film.

The premise might not be so straight-forward, she added.

“The thing is with a lot of our films, is it goes a certain way, then turns in a different direction," she said.

Alyssa, who led the art direction, set building, prop design, and sound design, said another first was the addition of professional voice talent.

“It was really interesting to do the voice casting, this time we got some professional voice actors,” Alyssa said. “In the past we just used us, friends, and family.” 

They also hired a vocalist to sing the theme song.

It’s the sisters’ longest film yet, clocking in at 9 minutes and 30 seconds, and it received a grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Also on the docket is The Great Fear by former Okotokian filmmaker Iain Laird.

Originally released in 2016, Laird’s production is somewhat timely, featuring an outbreak. 

In the case of the film, set in Montana, a food-born pathogen is causing people to lose their memories.

The film’s IMDB pitch describes it as “A film about a collapsing food industry, a lonely farmer, a lonely botanist and the wraith-like elements that disconnect and veil us all.”

The film had approximately 100 cast and crew and with budget of $25,000.

It features themes that won’t be unfamiliar in 2021, Laird said.

“It’s really come full circle, coming back to Okotoks where it was originally shot, and being shown in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.

“There’s one connection between this film we made in 2014 and what’s going on right now in the world.

“The one that struck me the most is the loss of connection... The film tries to strike home how connection is the most important thing and you don’t know how important it is until you lose it.

“I find that’s what COVID-19 has really challenged for a lot of people.”

Pulling the festival off with the current climate of pandemic uncertainty was a huge effort, said Okotoks Film Society president Elisa Shigehiro.

“I’m really proud of everyone who’s been putting this together,” she said. “This year we planned to have a live show with no expectation how it was actually going to happen.

“It was all the same work, but somehow doubled because of the constant feeling of possibly needing to change it up.

“I’m really glad it’s happening again this year. We’re going to offer it in such a way that you can view it safely, so get your family together.

“It’s definitely going to be a show worth checking out.”

More information can be found at and the launch event is slated for 7 p.m. May 1 and can be viewed at 

Brent Calver

About the Author: Brent Calver

Award-winning photojournalist for the Okotoks Western Wheel and
Read more