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film festival


For our seventh year we are expanding our festival to include two streams of films to provide our audience with a unique combination of documentaries on exploration and on the arts, a combination as unique as the festival partnership between The Arts & Letters Club of Toronto and The Explorers Club of Canada. We hope you will enjoy this broader offering of documentaries, and the filmmakers who will be at the festival to speak about their films and documentary filmmaking.



Friday March 27

7:00 pm: Reception

8:00 pm : World premiere of Ennutsiak: Portrait of a Carver. A rare opportunity to see a short documentary on one of the great Inuit artists of the early 1900s. Converted from 16 mm film to DVD just for this film festival.

8:30 pm: Throat Song, winner of many awards, including Best Live Action Short Film at the 2013 Canadian Screen Awards, and official selection of 19 film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival.

9:00 pm: World premiere of Iqaluit Dawn, a journey by a group of Mississauga students and four teachers from Ontario to Nunavut, a once in a lifetime learning opportunity that changed their experience as Canadians. Teacher Mary Ellen Gucciardi and filmmaker James Flaherty – hopefully with some students – will be at the film festival to discuss their experience and answer your questions.

Saturday March 28

9:30 am – 5:00 pm: An abundance of films.

There will be 13 documentaries during the day with the art and exploration films running concurrently starting at 9:30. Coffee and muffins will be waiting for you in the morning when you arrive and coffee will be available throughout the day. Lunch will be a buffet in the LAMPSroom around noon. Cookies and strawberries will be served mid afternoon.

Films about exploration:

Listed according to scheduled screening with a link to description below. Note: Film schedule could change. If the sequence of films is important to you, please check back a few days before the film festival.

9:30:      Into the Empty Quarter (2013)
10:40:    The Aviatrix

12:10      Lunch

12:40:    Marsupial Mayhem
1:30:      Die Trying: Crater of Fire (2014)
2:20       Shipwrecked on a Great Lake (2014)
3:10:      Arctic Dreamer (2004)
4:00:     On the Trail of the Far Fur Country (1920/2014)

Documentaries about art:

9:30:      Ryan(2004) and Alter Egos (2004)
10:40:    Royal Paintbox (2011)

12:10:     Lunch

12:40:    Exit through the Gift Shop (2010)
2:10:      Finding Vivian Maier (2014)
3:30:      Inside the Making of the World’s Largest Underwater Sculpture (2014)
4:00:      Lost Bohemia (2011)


6:00 pm – 6:45 pm: Road Stories

Filmmakers will share road stories in an interactive discussion with the audience starting at 6:00 pm in the 3rd floor studio.

7:00 pm: Dinner

8:00 pm: Keynote speaker

John Geiger, CEO of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society and member of the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition that located the wreck of HMS Erebus.



Admission to the festival is restricted to members of The Arts & Letters Club and The Explorers Club and their friends and family.

Meals and beverages

You’ll be able to satisfy your hunger as well as your soul during our film festival with wraps and soup at lunch, strawberries and cookies for those mid-afternoon munchies and a gala dinner prepared by The Arts & Letters Club’s talented culinary staff. All meals, snacks, tea and coffee are included in the film festival registration fees. Wine and beer will be available for purchase.


Friday night: Free
Saturday films + lunch: $45
Saturday gala dinner and keynote speaker: $45
Saturday films + lunch + gala dinner: ONLY $75. Save $15.

To register

Phone The Arts & Letters Club at (416) 597-0223 and select extension 2. Leave your name and phone number. A staff member will return your call to confirm your registration. You must supply a valid credit card number to the staff member at the time of registration. A refund will be paid only if the cancellation is received 48 hours prior to the event.


The festival will be held at Toronto’s historic Arts and Letters Club, located in the heart of downtown Toronto at 14 Elm Street. Formed in 1908 by members of the Group of Seven, the Club’s historic building was built by the St. George's Society in 1891.



Keynote speaker: John Geiger

John is the Chief Executive Officer of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic Enterprises. He is the international bestselling author of six books, including Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition and The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He was a member in the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition that located the wreck of HMS Erebus. Geiger graduated in history from the University of Alberta. He is a Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto, a Senior Fellow of the International Strategic Studies Association, Washington, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club, N.Y. He is the former Chair of the Editorial Board of The Globe and Mail, and also formerly served as Editorials Editor at National Post.



Arctic Dreamer (2004)

One of the most notorious explorers of the early 20th Century, Vilhjalmur Stefansson oscillated throughout his life between obscurity, celebrity and defamation. Best known for having “discovered” the “Blond Eskimos” (Copper Inuit) of the Central Arctic in 1910, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was one of the first anthropologists to adopt the lifestyle of the people he observed. Obsessed by his desire for fame and possessed of his dreams of discovery, Stefansson was the last explorer to uncover new lands in the Arctic. From Stefansson’s death-defying treks, that even the native Inuit would not dare, to his challenges during the McCarthy witchhunt, Arctic Dreamer documents his life with integrity, objectivity and beauty.


The Aviatrix (2014)

In 1928, Lady Heath became the first person to fly solo from Cape Town to London. Eighty-five years later, Tracey Curtis-Taylor sets out in a vintage biplane to fly that adventure again. Desperate to make her life long dream come true --  does Tracey have what it takes?  The Aviatrix follows the challenges she faces flying 10,000 miles up the length of Africa, vulnerable to the weather, flying through politically unstable countries and facing enormous physical demands.


Die Trying: Crater of Fire (2014)

Daredevil scientific explorer George Kourounis and his National Geographic team travel halfway around the world to tackle a dangerous descent into Turkmenistan's methane-burning Darvaza crater. The purpose: To become the first person to ever set foot at the bottom, and to gather samples for DNA testing, looking for extremophile life forms. If the team is successful, their findings could give us clues to the possible existence of life on other planets.


Into the Empty Quarter (2013)

Wilfred Thesiger was one of Britain's great explorers and writers. His greatest journeys were through the world's largest sand desert: the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula. Inspired by their hero, adventurers Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron attempt a journey of their own into the Empty Quarter. Their trip is hastily-planned and low budget: unable to afford camels they instead hope to drag a homemade steel cart (filled with 300kg of supplies) through the ferocious desert heat. This film is their story. Wilfred Thesiger was one of Britain's great explorers. His greatest journeys were through the world's largest sand desert: the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula. Inspired by their hero, Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron attempt a journey of their own into the Empty Quarter.


Iqaluit Dawn (2014)

The film, Iqaluit Dawn documents the journey of a group of high school students who travel from Ontario to Iqaluit, Nunavut for the first time. They experience the vast landscape and majestic tundra, spending a day on the land with an Inuit guide who shares his knowledge of hunting and environmental stewardship. In addition, they are given an opportunity to learn first-hand about Inuit games, throat singing, drumming and dog teams, through oral tradition and experiential learning. Traditional teachers, Johnny Issaluk and Meeka Mike embrace this group of young people and graciously share what they know about Inuit knowledge. Through connection to land, culture and community, this group of students is given a better understanding of the perseverance and survival of the Inuit people. It’s truly a once in a lifetime learning opportunity that changes their experience as Canadians!


On the Trail of the Far Fur Country (1920/2014)

In 1919, a film crew set out on an epic journey across Canada's North. Over the course of six months, their expedition traveled by icebreaker, canoe, and dog sled, capturing the Canadian fur trade in a silent feature documentary. The Romance of the Far Fur Country was released in 1920, two years before the legendary film Nanook of the North. Rediscovering the documentary in a British archive, another film crew begins a journey to resurrect the lost film, taking it to the communities where the film was originally shot. Images come to life; people recognize faces, landscapes, and lost traditions. In 1919, a film crew set out on an epic journey across Canada's North. Over the course of six months, their expedition traveled by icebreaker, canoe, and dog sled, capturing the Canadian fur trade in a silent feature documentary. Released in 1920, two years before the legendary film Nanook of the North, this documentary showcases this seldom-seen film, Canada's first documentary feature film.


Marsupial Mayhem

The island continent of Australia is home to the largest assortment of marsupials in the world. In order to survive this land of extreme climate and terrain, marsupials have had to make some fascinating evolutionary adaptations. From strange diets to curious reproductive characteristics to great getaway techniques, the kangaroo, the Tasmanian devil, the koala, and the sugar glider, among other members of the marsupial family, we explore their revolutionary adaptations and survival skills.


Shipwrecked on a Great Lake (2014)

An adventure docudrama that tells the story Ned Myers, the 24-year-old Canadian-American sailor who was one of the few survivors of the shipwreck of two warships, the Hamilton and the Scourge, in August 1813. The film re-enacts the ship’s involvement in the 1813 attack on Toronto at Cranberry Cove in Mississauga, and the storm that sank the two ships, first in a Toronto wave tank, then aboard La Revenante, an accurate replica of a 19th Century schooner, at the east end of Lake Ontario. The film uses an interview between Ned Myers and American writer James Fenimore Cooper as the structure for the film, then moves into the modern era with a telling of the search and discovery of the ships led by Dr. Dan Nelson in the 1970s, and the exploration of them by Jacques Cousteau, Robert Ballard and the National Geographic in the 80s and 90s. It culminates with the exclusive filming of the 2013 deepwater investigation of the two shipwrecks.



Ennutsiak: Portrait of a Carver

Ennutsiak has been called “the granddaddy of carvers.” Born in 1896 in northern Quebec he was one of the great Inuit artists of the 1900’s. Ennutsiak carved marvellous genre scenes of every day life, works more sophisticated than his peers, which depicted intense emotional scenes usually involving multiple characters and incorporating a strong sense of movement. Especially sought after are his small realistic tableaux of groups of Inuit, such as his famous birthing scenes, carved in the round from one single block of stone. At a 2011 Toronto auction one of his genre carvings of a migration of Inuit in an umiak boat sold for just under $90,000. Ennutsiak died in Iqualuit, Baffin Island in 1967. This film was shot by his physician in Ennutsiak’s workshop not long before his passing.


Exit through the Gift Shop (2010)

This extraordinary, Oscar-nominated film by street artist Banksy and narrated by British actor Rhys Ifans, tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a unemployed French immigrant to L.A. who is obsessed with street art and attempts to film his every waking moment, from a chance encounter with his cousin the street artist Invader, to his introduction to a host of street artists including the renowned Shepard Fairey and Banksy whose anonymity is preserved in the film by obscuring his face and altering his voice. Along the way Guetta's wins fame in L.A. as a street artist himself.


Finding Vivian Maier

Finding Vivian Maier is the critically acclaimed documentary about a mysterious nanny, who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that were hidden in storage lockers and, discovered decades later, is now among the 20th century’s greatest photographers. Directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, Maier’s strange and riveting life and art are revealed through never before seen photographs, films, and interviews with dozens who thought they knew her.


Inside the Making of the World’s Largest Underwater Sculpture (2014)

The Creators Project captured the installation of Jason de Caires Taylor’s 60-ton Atlas sculpture – Bahamian Ocean Atlas) – the single largest underwater sculpture on Earth. The work is a permanent, ocean floor installation commissioned by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF to provide an artificial habitat for corals off the coast of New Providence, Bahamas.


Lost Bohemia (2011)

For over 100 years, the most significant 20th century artists and performers have lived and worked in the 165 studios atop Carnegie Hall, including Marilyn Monroe, Isadora Duncan, Barnett Newman, Norman Mailer, Marlon Brando, and George Balanchine. In 2007, the Carnegie Hall Corporation began to systematically evict the artists (some in residence for over 60 years), destroy the Studios and convert the spaces into offices. Lost Bohemia is the only film documentation of the Carnegie Studios, the artists who worked there, and the creative legacies entwined with the studios’ history


Royal Paintbox(2014)

In a story previously untold on film, HRH The Prince of Wales takes us on a journey through history to reveal the artistic gene in his family and an spectacular treasury of artwork by royal hands past and present. The documentary goes behind the scenes to reveal how growing up with great art inspired The Prince of Wales to paint and how painting fits into the busy life of the heir. Set against gorgeous landscapes of Balmoral, Birkhall, Highgrove, Windsor Castle, Frogmore and Osborne House and containing insights into art by The Royal Family down the centuries and The Prince of Wales's own watercolours, Royal Paintbox explores a colourful palette of intimate family memories and artistic observations of nature, places and persons.


Ryan (2004) and Alter Egos (2004)

Ryan is an Oscar®-winning animated short that profiles the Chris Landreth’s encounter with Ryan Larkin, a Canadian animator who – decades ago – produced some of the most influential animated films of his time. When Landreth encounters him, Larkin is struggling with addiction and homelessness. Larkin’s scattered thoughts and powerful reminiscences are sketched in Landreth’s signature style of computer-generated psychological realism. Larkin passed away in 2007, but Ryan‘s aesthetic and emotional power—not to mention its critical success—helped reignite attention to Larkin’s undeniable talent, one which glimmered brightly before his demons overtook him. His contribution to the art of animation was a game-changer. Alter Ego is a fascinating full-length film that explores the life and work of Ryan Larkin and the making of Landreth’s short film Ryan.


Throat song (2011)

Inspired by conversations with Inuit human rights activist Miqqusaaq, the dramatic short film Throat Song takes place in the icy landscape of Iqaluit, Nunvaut, a small town in the Canadian Arctic. Ippiksaut Friesen (Ippik), a young Inuk woman, is silently suffering from the pains of an abusive relationship. Lost in a community that’s been tragically separated from its past, Ippik, through a job with the Department of Justice, begins to connect with other victims of violence in her community, and seeks to reclaim her voice.