Here’s Why You Should Attend Calgary’s Sled Island Music and Arts Festival

With the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival just around the corner (June 19 to 22), we decided to catch up with Kyle Thomas of North Country Cinema, who is also one of this year’s guest curators. 2013’s film program will be premiering a diverse collection of cinema shorts, narratives and documentaries by some ground-breaking local and international film makers. 

This year also includes an artist workshop, a soundtrack karaoke party at the Texas lounge, and a bike-in screening at the Simmons building. Milk Tiger has been appointed the official headquarters for the Sled Island Film After Parties, which will be hosted nightly. 

How did North Country Cinema get involved with Sled Island?
We were fortunate enough to have two short films in the festival last year that went on to win the top prizes. This triggered our interest in getting involved on a different level for this year’s festival. My filmmaking partner (Alexander Carson) and I approached Sled with the idea of curating the shorts program and they thought it was a great fit. We’re both growing Calgary-based organizations that are committed to fostering a local scene. We felt that we had a lot to offer, having seen a lot of films at festivals over the past few years that have never screened in Calgary.

For new and returning Sled Island attendees, what would be the one film that everyone should make sure they see?
I’d obviously check out the shorts program, which features amazing and innovative films by new filmmakers from across the world. Most of these shorts have competed and won prizes at other major festivals such as Sundance and Cannes, so we can promise a very solid pedigree. In terms of feature films I’m really excited about The Legend of Kaspar Hauser, an Italian, surrealist, techno-western. It will be pretty wild.

On June 23rd you will be screening your selection of international shorts. Can you tell me a little bit about the selection process that was involved?
Alexander and I had spent a good portion of 2011/2012 touring festivals with our latest short films, and we were very fortunate to see a lot of great work by filmmakers from around the world. Our goal with the Sled Island short program was to build a slate of world-class films that really impressed us as viewers, and also reflected our sensibilities as filmmakers. We’re primarily interested in films with strong characters and a strong personal vision behind them. The films we have selected for Sled Island hail from all over North America and Europe. 

What is the one band that you have to see this year?
SWANS. Hands down. I saw them in New York last October and it was a highlight of the year. They are pioneers in the industrial/New York No-Wave genre that started in the 80s and they haven’t lost it one bit. They performed for over two and a half hours and only played six or seven songs. They are loud, hard, and hypnotic. This show is not to be missed. Second would be Jesus and Mary Chain. It’s epic that they will be playing here in Calgary.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the Ondes Martenot?
Sure! It was invented in Paris in 1928 and is considered a landmark achievement in the history of electronic music. There aren’t many that still exist. This is the subject of Caroline Martel’s documentary Wavemakers (Le Chant Des Ondes) screening at the festival this year. Alexander is a big fan of Caroline’s previous film, The Phantom of the Operator. She brings a really fresh approach to documentary form, so I’m sure her new film will be wonderful. There will also be a live demonstration of this rare instrument at the National Music Centre here in Calgary during the festival. We are very lucky to have one of the world’s largest synthesizer/keyboard collections in the world right here in this city.

North Country is dedicated to keeping film here in Alberta. As advocates for the local arts, how do you think the Sled Island festival is helping to make Calgary a better city?
Sled Island is a very important festival for Calgary. With a huge roster of musicians, comedians, and films playing at different venues around the city, it’s the largest festival of this kind in Western Canada. I had the pleasure of attending the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas with one of my films, and Sled feels like it has the potential to grow into an internationally recognized event in a similar way. Beyond bringing in top acts from around the world, Sled is dedicated to fostering local talent, which I think is essential for Calgary as we continue to develop culturally. We have a lot of catching up to do with the other major Canadian cities (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver) and we’d be a lot further behind if it weren’t for Sled Island.

The Sled Island film program will be running from June 18th to June 25th. Admittance to film events is free with the Sled Island Festival Discovery pass. Separate film passes are also available for $30. Please note all events are subject to capacity.