'I was completely in shock': The Sun at Midnight wins juried prize at American film festival

Meg Ryan handed Yellowknife director Kirsten Carthew the award for best narrative at the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas on Saturday.

Distribution deal will bring international exposure to Northern film

Meg Ryan and Kirsten Carthew at the 3rd Annual Bentonville Film Festival in Bentonville, Arkansas. (Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Bentonville Film Festival)

A feature film shot entirely in the Northwest Territories picked up another major award at an international festival over the weekend.

Kirsten Carthew's The Sun at Midnight won the juried prize for best narrative during the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas on Saturday.

The award — presented by renowned American actress and director Meg Ryan — also means Carthew will start working with AMC Theatres and Walmart on international distribution agreements.

The Sun at Midnight tells the story of a friendship between a hunter obsessed with finding a missing caribou herd and a 16-year-old girl who is sent to spend the summer with her Gwich'in grandmother.

The film was shot in and around Fort McPherson and has played at festivals in Whistler, Beijing and other cities around the world.

Not the first award for film

The Sun at Midnight has claimed other awards since its debut, including Kawennárhere Devery Jacobs' win for best performance in a Canadian film during the Whistler Film Festival.

Carthew on the set of The Sun at Midnight, which she directed, wrote, and produced. (submitted)

In an interview with CBC, Carthew said Saturday's win was just as exciting.

"I was completely in shock," she said. "I just felt kind of overwhelmed because I really, really wasn't expecting it."

"I heard my name get called and I leaned over to the people sitting next to me and said, 'Is that me?'"

I just felt kind of overwhelmed because I really, really wasn't expecting it.- Kirsten Carthew

Carthew accepted the award on a broken ankle, using crutches to get up on stage.

"I felt a little bad for Meg Ryan who had to sort of stand there for, I don't know, seven minutes while I made my way to the stage," she said.

"I was hoping that one of the benefits of taking so long to get to the podium would mean that I could come up with something brilliant and articulate. That was not the case."

Carthew used her allotted speech time to thank festival organizers and participants, and give the audience a bit of a geography lesson.

"I think I did right by Northerners," she told CBC. "I basically used my presentation time to give a geography lesson of where the Northwest Territories is."

"One of the reasons I wanted to make the film [in the first place] was because I really love the Northwest Territories."

Carthew believes she's developed a level of credibility in the film industry now that The Sun at Midnight has picked up some hardware and is ready to debut in parts of Europe as well.

"It feels pretty unique and spectacular to have that connection," she said. "I'm really proud to be from the North and I'm really proud to be able to share this film."