Controversial Sled Dog film to premiere at Canadian festival

The acclaimed Whistler, BC, film festival started this week, featuring Canadian first-run Oscar-buzz films like Ms. Sloan and La La Land. Although the pictures feature Hollywood luminaries Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, those stars could be upstaged by the subjects of another film – one creating a lot of controversy in the mushing world.

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Fern Levitt’s documentary, Sled Dogs, has tripped the social media trigger among sled-dog kennel owners and animal rights activists.

One Canadian kennel owner threatened the festival with a lawsuit if it shows the film, while Vancouver’s humane society urged the festival to show it.

None of that bothers Whistler Film Festival program director Paul Gratton.

“I find it pretty amazing that people are trying to stop a public screening of a film that hasn’t been seen,” Gratton laughed.

Gratton said the controversy is sparked by the film’s trailer, which sensationalizes certain aspects of the film — some of the footage in the film and the trailer were shot in Alaska during the Iditarod.

Gratton said he thinks people should give the movie a chance.

“It’s not like I was getting death threats or anything crazy like that, but people were very upset over a movie that they hadn’t seen, because the world premiere is happening here,” Gratton said. “And, I understand that a two minute trailer that the producer supplied to us, is, by it’s very nature, designed to sell tickets. And I don’t think it represents the film. My personal feeling is that if it had been a mindless, hysterical, hatchet job against the industry, I wouldn’t have shown it.”

The film is tentatively scheduled to air on Canadian national television next year. Gratton said, in Whistler, it is showing in a 200 seat theater for it’s premiere. He said he’ll be available to discuss the film with the audience after it airs Saturday night at 9:30 BC time.

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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen