Opening the 26th Fantasia Int’l Film Festival in Montreal on July 14, writer-director KC Carthew’s “Polaris” is her sophomore pic after her multi-award-winning debut feature, “The Sun at Midnight” (2017). A teaser, bowing exclusively in varietyreveals a dystopian thriller set in a frigid, snow-blanketed wasteland.
An expansion of her award-winning short film “Fish out of Water,” which also bowed at Fantasia in 2015, “Polaris” turns on Sumi, a young girl who has been raised by a polar bear. Set in 2144, it follows Sumi (Viva Lee, “Deadly Class”) as she tries to evade capture from a ruthless Morad hunting party. She stumbles across Frozen Girl (Khamisa Wilsher, “Charmed,” “Schmigadoon!”) with whom she strikes an unlikely alliance. “Together they race ahead of the vindictive hunters towards the only guiding light Sumi knows, the Polaris star,” the synopsis goes.
The teaser opens on Sumi as she plays and rides on her polar bear mother, played by the only professional acting polar bear in the film industry, Agee. Sumi is captured and later escapes from the Morad tribe, with the last image showing her new friend, Frozen Girl.
“’Polaris’ is inspired by my love of stories about relations between humans and Nature, while also reimagining aspects of Greek mythology. Filmed in the subarctic, the story is set in a futuristic frozen world born of the brutal disregard of generations prior – where any nation could be buried under the snow,” Carthew told Variety.
In her director’s notes, Carthew describes “Polaris” as ‘Mad Max in the Arctic,’ the “origin story of a world gone to shame that builds from themes of environmental stewardship/horror.”
“It is inspired by eco-feminism and the need for significant cultural and sustainable change. The film portrays these themes with an entirely female cast – including the polar bear,” she added.
“Sumi has an intimate relationship with nature and extraordinary survival skills: she can speak with animals and trees but has not yet learned to speak with people. Other humans speak fictional languages to represent this gap in understanding. This creates a primarily non-verbal experience that is strengthened by not having subtitles. My intention is to place audiences in the story world and encourage an emotionally immersive type of film-watching that is more empathy-based, intuitive and universal,” she explained.
A Yukon-Quebec-Ontario co-production with support from the Northwest Territories, “Polaris” is produced by Max Fraser and Carthew of Little Dipper Films Inc., Yukon; Paul Cadieux of Megafun Productions in Quebec and Alyson Richards of Ontario-based Alyson Richards Productions.
The 26th Fantasia Int’l Film Festival runs July 14 to Aug. 3, 2022.