Kelton Stepanowich's film Gods Acre to put Fort Chipewyan in spotlight

An Alberta filmmaker is putting his isolated hometown of Fort Chipewyan in front of frame.

Shooting for Gods Acre set to begin in summer

Lorne Cardinal is set to star as a man who watches his ancestral home become swallowed up by rising water levels. (Michael Bell/Canadian Press)

An Alberta filmmaker is putting his isolated hometown of Fort Chipewyan in front of frame.

The tiny hamlet 600 kilometres north of Edmonton is the setting for Gods Acre by Kelton Stepanowich.

The film, produced by Stepanowich's Half Breed Films, tells the story of an elderly aboriginal trapper living in northern Alberta who finds his land being destroyed by climate change. As rising river levels swallow up his ancestral home, he must decide what to do.

The movie, described as an "aboriginal enviro-identity film," will be shot in Fort Chipewyan. (Gods Acre)
"He has kind of two options, to leave the only home he's ever known or to adapt," Stepanowich told CBC's Edmonton AM.

"Here's a character in isolation. Now he has to deal with a problem greater than him. The problems of the outside world come to his doorstep."

It's a story that resonates closely with the filmmaker and his co-writer, Derek Vermillion. The pair's families are from the Fort Chipewyan area and Stepanowich's grandfather lived off the land, similar to his main character.

The film is set to start shooting this summer and Stepanowich is currently trying to raise the $25,000 needed to get cast and crew up to the isolated community.

The task is more difficult than usual as Fort Chipewyan is only accessible by ice road or aircraft. It will be a challenge, Stepanowich said, but the isolation also makes it more rewarding.

"At the same time, it feels good to be able to go into a community and bring something to it that has definitely not been there before," he said.

Filmmaker talks on CBC's Edmonton AM

The film is set to star Lorne Cardinal, known for his work on Corner Gas and Arctic Air. Stepanowich said he was thrilled to get Cardinal for the role.

"He said, 'I know this character, I understand where he is coming from,'" Stepanowich said.

Edmonton's former poet laureate Roland Pemberton (a.k.a. Cadence Weapon) and Calgary-based actor Greg Lawson have also signed on.

The film's fundraising page states that it also plans to donate film equipment to the Athabasca Delta Community School system, as well as start a mentorship program for aboriginal youth who wish to get into the film industry.