If there’s any film at this year’s KCFF that’ll have audiences up on the feet and cheering, it’s most definitely this big-hearted drama. A producer turned first-time director, Miranda de Pencier made THE GRIZZLIES in close collaboration with members of the Inuit community at the heart of this incredible story. Ben Schnetzer plays a schoolteacher who arrives from the south to Kugluktuk, a town full of young people facing daunting challenges and struggles, including the highest suicide rate in North America. While lacrosse doesn’t seem like an answer to any of these problems, the newcomer’s belief in the healing and galvanizing power of sport becomes infectious as he gradually gains the trust of his students. Whether they’re conveying joy or pain, the ensemble cast of performers – including such standouts as Paul Nutarariaq and Emerald MacDonald – bring enormous energy to a remarkable and inspiring portrait of life in the north.
Miranda de Pencier studied Theatre Performance and Philosophy at Concordia University in Montreal and majored in Acting at New York University. After 15 years in a successful acting and singing career that spanned television, film and the stage, including playing the role of Josie Pye in the Emmy Award winning ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and performing in the original Canadian stage productions of LES MISERABLES, de Pencier turned to producing. She was the Director of Development of Robert Redford’s company Wildwood where she was involved in developing a number of film projects including THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES and SPY GAME before forming her own company, Northwood Productions. THROAT SONG was de Pencier debut as a director. It is a 17-minute short that was shot in Iqaluit, and was written and directed by de Pencier and produced by Kugluktuk native Stacey Aglok MacDonald. It was one of 43 short films that screened as part of the Toronto Film Festival’s Short Cuts Canada program in 2011 and the only film produced in one of the northern territories. THE GRIZZLIES was de Pencier feature directorial debut, which premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. In October 2018, de Pencier won the Directors Guild of Canada award for Best Direction in a Feature Film for THE GRIZZLIES.