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Northern Arts Review: local film Sukunka

"Like Jaws - but with bears in a forest instead of sharks."

For this week’s edition, I spoke with Rob Brown, producer, writer, director and more of the full-length motion picture Sukunka, a thrilling, action-packed mix of comedy and horror.

Our conversation spanned the breadth of the Sukunka project, inspirations, and the process of getting it made.

Rob Brown wears many hats. He is an editor, journalist, producer, photographer, playwright and actor.

While Sukunka is his first feature-length film as a director, his years in theatre and film acting have helped him prepare for the tasks of writing, acting, directing and producing the film.

Not only has he been writing for over 30 years, he's produced plays for 15 of them. He co-founded Tumbleweed Theatre in Brooks, AB and had a short stint with in Stage North, a theatrical entertainment company based in Fort St. John.

The inspiration for Sukunka the motion picture hit when he attended the Sukunka Valley Awakening Music Festival in 2016. Struck by the stunning backdrop of the valley, Brown hand wrote a script for the film the next weekend. 

Over the next two years, these words on a page - the perplexing story of mysterious maulings in the woods, a greedy mayor flouting public safety and concerned conservation officers took a broader shape as a full movie production.

Rob’s elevator pitch for the film was, Like Jaws, but with bears.

Since the pandemic has hit - Brown calls it a classic and timely, story of communal law versus individual freedom; as public gatherings are halted while the community battles an unseen enemy.

In being an almost entirely local production, the film has a unique appeal. Familiar scenery, such as the Sukunka Valley, the Village of Pouce Coupe, Swan Lake, Kin Park and the District of Chetwynd make up the shoot locations. 

Ron Cartier behind the camera and Hank Bridgeman in charge of first year cinematography.

It boasts a local cast of about 25 on camera, with Brown and Sarah Weiss playing the conservation officers advocating for public safety, Paul Brent as the antagonistic mayor, and Gary Vincent as the bear expert Cooper Matthews (a nod to Jaws’ shark expert Matthew Hooper).

The film also includes a soundtrack featuring the Raspy Devils, as well as many other local Peace region musicians including Marty Peterson.

Sukunka features cameos from several well-known real people - who only bring character to the region - such as the Rolla Pub’s Patty Martin,  Alaska Hotel’s Charles Kux-Kardos and the late writer Robin Gibson.

Significantly, Sukunka is locally funded as it received funding over three years from the Village of Pouce Coupe.

He says his success with the village council is due to the concrete nature of the film.

He plans to submit it to major film festivals, from the Reel Shorts Film Festival in Grande Prairie and Calgary Horror Con to VIFF and TIFF.

As if creating a film was not ambitious enough, a line of Sukunka merchandise, including toys and a Hardy Boys, whodunit-style children’s book based on the film’s plot. Sukunka’s release will also be accompanied by a series of music videos by soundtrack artists and more

Stay tuned for the 2022 release of this one-of-a-kind production showcasing Peace Region scenery and talent.

Check out the trailer on Facebook HERE

Do you have an artistic endeavour you would like to promote? Is there a topic you would like me to discuss? I would love to hear from you! Please email me at programs@dcartgallery.ca.