The director of one of the hottest new films of 2018 will be in Barrie as a special guest at the local film festival.

Miranda de Pencier’s film, The Grizzlies, has been winning hearts whenever it’s been shown since its world premiere, last month, at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The film, which was 10-years in the making, is a true story about a group of Inuit students who changed their teacher and eventually their whole community for the better.

Set in 1998, the film features Russ Sheppard (Ben Schnetzer) as a young teacher who has just moved to Kugluktuk, Nunavut, a community that, at the time, had one of the highest suicide rates in North America. Russ decided to start an after-school lacrosse program in an attempt to offer students a safe space after he discovered one youth using the school storage bins to seek refuge from his abusive father. The students were initially resistant to the idea.

The Grizzlies is de Pencier’s feature film debut. The Toronto-born director/producer credits include Beginners and Thanks for Sharing. She made her directorial debut with the award-winning short film Throat Song. She also directed The Grizzlies.

She has a personal connection to the Arctic through her grandfather, a fur trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company and an explorer who regularly flew his plane across the frozen land. The footage he shot on his 16mm camera is used in the opening sequence of The Grizzlies.

De Pencier began her career as an actress and singer performing in numerous productions on stage, television and screen, including the Canadian premiere production of Les Miserables and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love.

Her many producing credits include Anne With An E, currently streaming season two on Netflix and premiering on CBC this fall. It garnered 13 nominations at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards and won best drama series.

De Pencier will be in Barrie for a question and answer session after the screening of The Grizzlies on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. The film can also be seen on Oct. 21 at 1:15 p.m. at the Uptown Theatre, downtown Barrie.

The 21st annual Barrie Film Festival runs from Oct. 12-21. Visit barriefilmfestival.ca for more.

Photo: Catch The Grizzlies at the Barrie Film Festival Oct. 20-21. Shane Mahood photo

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