An emergency physician is spearheading a brand new film festival to take place in The Pas.

Dr. Bernhard Friz joined forces with Coleen Rajotte, director of the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival, to create Storytellers — The Pas’ First Film Festival of Aboriginal and Northern Peoples. 

"It's his fortieth birthday and it's his way of giving back to the community!" said Rajotte.

"He contacted me last year saying he had a crazy idea. I said I like crazy ideas, so we met and Storytellers was born."

Friz was born and raised in Winnipeg and grew up watching films at Cinematheque. He believes there's a real appetite for film in the north.

"If Toronto and Winnipeg can have aboriginal film festivals, we should as well!" he said. "There's a very large Aboriginal population in The Pas and I think a film festival for Aboriginal and northern peoples would be good."

"I do think, especially in film culture, we see ideas that are expressed from Hollywood and from the south. But I also believe in the idea of expressing and communicating ideas in the north by the north." 

The Lido Theatre, The Pas

When you enter The Lido Theatre in The Pas you feel like you're in an Italian palazzo.

The festival is to take place in the historic Lido Theatre, which opened in 1930,  the first movie theatre in western Canada built specifically to accommodate “talkies” and the longest running atmospheric movie house in the world.

"It's beautiful," he said. "You go in and you feel like you're on an Italian piazza and you look up and you can see the stars in the sky. I just think it's a gem. 

"I also think it is an opportunity for people who live in The Pas to use that facility. I do believe that just like your mom's old china, it doesn't do any good being packed away. I see the opportunity of using this theatre and to celebrate northern ideas through film in that theatre. And people absolutely love that theatre."

Friz currently divides his time between the Pas, some Ontario towns and Toronto. He had worked as a remote and fly-in doctor for a number of years and was persuaded to work in The Pas by the pilot's wife who is also a nurse. 

"The community and the hospital have treated me wonderfully," he said. "It's been a great place to grow professionally. Of course, working in the emergency, I see a lot of the community that comes through. I've really enjoyed my interaction with them."

The festival is slated to present six feature films, including Reel Injun, a documentary by Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond and The Lesser Blessed by Anita Doron based on the novel of the same name by Richard Van Camp.

The festival will present a number of shorts, including Kevin Lee Burton's Nikamowin, which is a conversation between the audience and the Cree language that explores the rhythm of language through an 11 minute soundscape.

There will also be contributions by local youth and a special event involving elders who will see the films in advance and then speak and give their opinions of those films to the audience. Filmmakers Danis Goulet from Northern Saskatchewan and Kevin Lee Burton from God's Lake Narrows will be in attendance and will also interact with the elders. 

"I'm hoping the audience will be able to watch a discussion of what the elders think of their work and what the elders think of using film and video as an expression of culture," he said.

The Storytellers Film Festival runs March 20-23 at The Pas' Lido Theatre