Detah's student filmmakers take home 2 Zombear awards at Dead North

Students at Kaw Tay Whee School in Detah, N.W.T., were surprised with two awards for their short films at the Dead North Film Festival.

'I was actually pretty surprised,' says Grade 6 student Tanisha Charlo

Laiza Koyina, the voice of the film's star puppet Frostbite, holds up one of the two Zombears her school won for their films at this year's Dead North Film Festival in Yellowknife. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

A pair of zombie polar bears surprised students at Kaw Tay Whee School in Detah, N.W.T., on Wednesday.

The kids were part of this year's Dead North Film Festival, a horror and sci-fi filmmaking competition in Yellowknife that draws in filmmakers from across the circumpolar Arctic.

The 'Zombear' awards are given out at the festival.

The school submitted two films: Flight of the Tentacle and Snacktime.

Students won two Zombear awards for best marketing and best youth film; but the ceremony was held at a bar, so the youngsters weren't able to go.

Instead, their teachers along with Dead North creators sprung the news on them Wednesday morning.

Watch the moment the students learned they had won:

Grade 8 student Laiza Koyina voices the star actor, a puppet monster named Frostbite. Koyina was a little shy for the interview, but as soon as she put the puppet on her hand, she lit up. 

"It was surprising," said Frostbite. "I thought we would get one or none."

"I actually didn't think we'd get these awards," echoed Grade 6 student Tanisha Charlo, who worked on both films.

"I was actually pretty surprised."

Frostbite with a 'Zombear' award for best marketing. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Filmmaking taught in the classroom

Last year, Kaw Tay Whee students entered Dead North with their film 'Frostbite,' the story of a puppet monster who nibbles on kids who don't wear their hats and mittens in the cold.

The film gained popularity online, and ran at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival in Toronto, where it took home an award for most promising debut.

This year, the school decided to expand on the Frostbite saga.

Flight of the Tentacle sees Frostbite become an employee at an airline. He saves the day after a tentacle monster wreaks havoc on his plane.

Snacktime watches Frostbite and a band of other puppets — including one named Hypothermia — enroll in the school's kindergarten class so they can eat staff and students.

The students made the props, from the puppets to a model plane they set on fire for the film.

They also wrote, filmed and edited everything themselves.

Photos of some of the students who worked on Flight of the Tentacle are on display throughout the school. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Filmmaking is incorporated into the school's curriculum, and students earn high school credits for their work.

"This school has been dabbling in different kinds of film for about nine years," explained principal Lea Lamoureux.

Frostbite was the first film the kids submitted to the Dead North Film Festival. Lamoureux said working on films has helped bring her students closer.

Principal Lea Lamoureux with Hypothermia, one of the puppets in the film Snacktime. The students made all of the puppets for the film themselves. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

"They talk about the technical skills they've learned … but what I've noticed is that collaboration has gelled them even more," she said.

More youth films at Dead North

Jay Bulckaert, co-founder of Dead North, is a little jealous of the learning environment at Kaw Tay Whee School.

"For them to be encouraged to go out there and make something kind of weird and crazy says a lot to them. And I think it will mean something to them as they get older — that they're accepted for coming up with weird, strange things."

Jay Bulckaert, left, is the co-founder of Dead North. He says the festival is looking to encourage more schools to submit films next year. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

This year, Dead North saw six films made by youth.

Bulckaert said the festival is looking at having an under-18 youth category, and even holding a night to screen just those films so the kids can enjoy the festival more.

He wants to encourage more schools in the territory to submit films next year.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.