From screen to stream: FIN Atlantic International Film Fest extended to Sept. 27

From screen to stream: FIN Atlantic International Film Festival presented from Halifax and accessible virtually throughout Atlantic Canada, Sept. 17 to 24. 

Husband-wife team in the spotlight with ceramist Walter Ostrom documentary


Due to the possibility of disruptions after Post-Tropical Storm Teddy blew threw the region this week,  FIN Atlantic International Film Festival  decided to extend the festival until Sept. 27

Organizers reached out to the films producers in the festival's program to request an access extension. 

In a show of support for this year's event, all non-gala films that were originally available from September 17 to 24 along with the CBC REEL EAST COAST SHORTS GALA on September 23 will be extended with access until Sunday, September 27 at 11:59 p.m. All other Gala Presentations will maintain their original access dates. 

All films will still be subject to original capacity limits and new ticket purchases will only be possible until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, September 24, as originally intended. 

The FIN Stream program includes a range of films from local, national, and international filmmakers. Viewers have the opportunity to immerse themselves in other cultures and enjoy films from 22 countries in over 20 different languages.

We asked FIN Executive Director Wayne Carter to weigh in on a few topics:

  • GREATEST CHALLENGE GOING FROM SCREEN TO STREAM:  "There have been many challenges, but I feel the biggest one will be transitioning our loyal audience to this new experience.  It will be key for the Festival going forward as all indicators would be that even when we return back to the live event/cinema experience the online aspect of the Festival will continue on going forward."

  • WHAT FILMS WILL STICK WITH AUDIENCES?: "I think our overall Gala lineup this year is full of stand out films, Atlantic Canadian features and shorts as well as incredible Canadian and International features."

  • THAT WOW FACTOR:  "A Canadian documentary called No Ordinary Man which is a thought provoking, innovative and powerful look at Billy Tipton, a jazz musician from the 1950's and 60's who was secretly trans."

  • HOT TICKET: "I have a sneaking suspicion our closing night Gala Another Round starring Mads Mikkelsen and directed by Thomas Vinterberg is going to be a hot ticket."

  • JUST THE FAQS:  How to watch and ticket info.  Check out FINpedia online guide for what is on offer.

Halifax-based filmmakers Israel Ekanem and Monica G. Bell of Ubuntu Media will premiere their documentary, Good Earth: The Pots and Passion of Walter Ostrom at this year's online FIN Atlantic International Film Festival. (Ubuntu Media)

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Monica G. Bell & Israel Ekanem

Monica G. Bell and Israel Ekanem are a dynamic duo on the Atlantic film scene. 

Since arriving in Canada in 2015, they formed their own company Ubuntu Media in Halifax. 

In just three years, they have 13 films to their credit, have won several awards and this month their documentary, Good Earth: The Pots and Passion of Walter Ostrom, streams at FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival.

"This is our first documentary at FIN and I couldn't be happier to share Walter's story at FIN," Israel says." I didn't know much about ceramics or indeed about Walter, but my first meeting with Walter and I knew this was a story that had to be shared. Walter is passionate, driven and has laser focus. Oh, and he is funny too."

The story of the longtime Nova Scotia-based ceramist and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD) professor emeritus caught their interest after a conversation with friends Julie Hollenbach and Shannon Parker, who are co-curating a Walter Ostrom retrospective exhibition at Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

"When we had the discussion about this project, it was the quickest 'Yes' we have had," says Monica.

Renowned Nova Scotia-based ceramist Walter Ostrom is the focus of a documentary at FIN called Good Earth: The Pots and Passion of Walter Ostrom. (Ubuntu Media)
"Walter is renowned in the world of ceramics and his students have gone on to do amazing things. There was no way I was not going to tell this story. I'm grateful Julie and Shannon gave us this opportunity," Israel says.

Israel and Monica share a deep passion for film and seem to feed off one another's creativity. 

"Monica is my wife and my producer. She produces every film I make and I'm lucky she does because I tend to go tooooo big," he says. "She helps me focus and makes the budget work."

Israel says Hollenbach and Parker helped him to flesh out the documentary, as they knew a lot more about Walter, ceramics and art. 

"I call my team The Avengers because they make me look better than I really am," he says, giving a shout-out to Sheldon Hachey and Burton Howell of SoundBuds, Justin Gaudreault of Audio by Justin and John O' Brien, his assistant director.

I grew up listening to [my grandmother's] stories and I learned through her the best way to get your point across is to use the power of story. I bring that into pretty much everything I do.- Israel Ekanem, filmmaker

In Nigeria, Israel fell in love with storytelling at a young age and says his grandmother, Lydia, was his major influence. 

"I grew up listening to [my grandmother's] stories and I learned through her the best way to get your point across is to use the power of story. I bring that into pretty much everything I do," he says.

He first dabbled in the film biz as a kid, acting in a local TV "play" in Nigeria.

South African-born Monica met Israel when he went to South Africa to study. Their first film together was a short called We Watched the Clouds Form Shapes.

"I made that one with Monica, here in Halifax. It is about a couple that decides to die by suicide. It was a form of healing for me from the loss of a friend. Weird. I know."

Monica says it was that short film in 2016 that started it all.

"For We Watched the Clouds Form Shapes, I was an actor and producer with Israel. But it got even more serious when Israel struggled to find a producer to apply to the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative Program, Film 5. He was new in the city, he didn't really have any work to show and people had their doubts partnering with him to apply to the program," Monica explains.

"As the deadline approached, he put in my name as his producer and only told me after submitting it. We had a laugh about it but I am thankful to all the instructors in the program including Brett Hannam and Doug Pettigrew because I learned so much in that program. We made Drown The Lovers through the program and we have been working on our filmmaking partnership since. Being married is a boon to our creativity and the stories we tell."

Their films have played at festivals from Charlottetown to Calcutta and Parrsboro to Venezuela, with some picking up awards along the way.

Their short Drown for Lovers won best director and best Sci-Fi short film from the Hollywood-based Independent Shorts Film Festival, and it also was chosen best Sci-Fi short film from the Five Continents International Film Festival in Venezuela. Their film Tale Of A Man Who Whispered To Flowers also won best director (which they co-directed) and best film from the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival and the Cult Critic Movie Awards. 

The husband-and-wife team of Monica G. Bell and Israel Ekanem formed Ubuntu Media in 2017 and since then have 13 film credits and received awards for their work at festivals around the globe. (Ubuntu Media)
He admits immigrating to Canada afforded them the opportunity to expand their horizons and explore their filmmaking and creative arts.

"The opportunities that exist in Canada for someone willing to put in the work is endless," he says.

"Was it easy? I wouldn't say it's easy. I mean I work hard, but the difference with being in Canada is with the work. The opportunities are there, if I work at it and I do. The work has led to being able to start a company, being able to share stories and find a community to share these stories with."

Since arriving in 2015, Israel has not only brought his creativity to the screen, but also the airwaves. You can hear him every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on The Off Kilter Show on CKDU-FM, Dalhousie University's campus radio station, he has a weekly Blackout Podcast, sharing conversations with "amazing people about amazing things" and is director of the Mosaic Festival (this year it goes virtual on Sept. 19 in Halifax).

Israel is also a former artist-in-residence for Centre for Art Tapes (CFAT) in Halifax. "I am currently working on an AR (Augmented Reality) Project called Slave/Servant/Human through a CFAT grant and I'm thankful for that opportunity. I also record the Blackout Podcast at CFAT."

And if that isn't enough to keep them occupied, Israel works as a database specialist at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), while Monica is a manager of customer service at TD Bank.

"I love my job, I love the people I work with. One thing about working at ISANS is that the agency was really helpful when Monica and I were working on moving to Canada and now I am working there helping other potential immigrants move not just to Canada, but to Nova Scotia to live," he says.

"I'm a bit of a data nerd so the work I do at ISANS is rewarding and it feels good working with the people I do. Plus, as every artist knows, you really can't pay rent and stuff with what we make from art . . . well at least I don't. Not yet, anyway."

In a year like no other, with the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and other social issues at the forefront, Israel says telling stories is more important than ever.

"Story is important. Has always been. Will always be. Especially in a year like this. We have to get our voices heard," he explains. "It's been a heavy year, but an inspiring one. I'm currently developing a feature film, Afraid of the Dark (based on Guyleigh Johnson's book of the same title), a short film, Kill Your Masters and we're creating a podcast network to give even more people a larger megaphone to get their voices heard."

They have also applied to the Telefilm Talent To Watch Program and are hoping their feature film will come to fruition in the coming years, with the help of that program.

"Israel has been selected as one of FIN Script Writing Development finalists and he will be pitching the film during the festival," Monica says. "We hope to win that competition as it will make our package a lot better than it currently is, plus it will enable us to bring on talent that we believe are a great fit for the project. Whatever happens at FIN, we intend to apply for next year's Telefilm's Talent To Watch."

For now they are excited to share Good Earth: The Pots and Passion of Walter Ostrom.

"Walter's drive and love for clay are inspiring and it is one film I believe the world needs to see," she says.

Director: Israel Ekamen
Writers: Israel Ekamen, Julie Hollenback, Shannon L. Parker
Producer: Monica G. Bell
Cinematographers: Israel Ekanem, Burton Howell
Editor: Sheldon Hachey
Country: Canada
Province: NS
Language: English
Runtime: 47 minutes

Available to stream from 12:01AM, September 17th to 11:59PM, September 24th.
Ticketholders have 24 hours to complete the stream once they start a particular presentation.