Locally Made Film Puts NB on the Big Screen

Category: community, movies 1,724

Jillian Acreman’s debut feature film ‘Queen of the Andes’ will premiere at this year’s Atlantic International Film Festival.

Matt Carter
Queen of the Andes’ co-stars Hailey Chown and Bhreagh MacNeil.

This is a pretty big moment for Fredericton filmmaker Jillian Acreman. After making some serious investments in time, patience and talent, her debut feature film is finally ready for an audience. Queen of the Andes will make its debut at this year’s Atlantic International Film Festival, September 17-24. 

Queen of the Andes tells the story of a woman drafted for a one-way trip to Mars. Set in the not-too-distant future, the storyline balances the beauty of love and friendship with an eerie and uncomfortable acknowledgement of the film’s dystopian reality.   

“Queen of the Andes is a film about a woman who’s been drafted against her will on a one-way tour to colonize Mars, but the theme of the movie is isolation,” said Acreman. “I used this theme to inform most creative decisions in terms of composition, and also with sound design and song placement. The story began as a short film script that I couldn’t get funded, so I decided to try adapting it into a feature.”

As the story developed, eventually being awarded funding through the Telefilm Canada Talent Fund with additional support from the New Brunswick Filmmaker’s Cooperative, Acreman began looking to build a team to help bring her first feature film to life.   

“It became my mission to create a ‘New Brunswick visual through-line’, in order to highlight what the main character was being forced to leave. This mission resulted in an incredible collaboration with the artists, artisans, and musicians, and the film is so much richer for it.”

“I knew I’d need to find the perfect producing partner and Arianna Martinez was someone I knew a little, and was interested in collaborating with,” she said. “I approached her in late 2017 and we clicked immediately.”

Martinez is a co-founder of the Fredericton film company Strike Pictures and much like Acreman, is an active member of the local film community. From that perspective, this partnership is just the tip of an impressive list of artists involved in this film. From many of the actors and crew, to the music throughout and the film’s numerous locations, Queen of the Andes is very much a celebration of New Brunswick and Acreman’s hometown of Fredericton.

For Acreman, embedding her hometown into the story was a deliberate move. She strongly believes a hometown’s unspoken characteristics are something anyone would miss if they were suddenly taken away. From a writing perspective, exploring the things she loves about her own community only made sense when creating a world for her script. 

Bhreagh MacNeil and Ryan Barton in a scene from Queen of the Andes.

“I have a lead character who is leaving home, probably forever, and if I consider the scenario, I think I’d immediately start noticing and appreciating all the things around me that made my home home,” said Acreman. “Obviously things like people and places, art, and music. But also the small things like textures and small sounds, and the things that are commonplace locally. It became my mission to create a ‘New Brunswick visual through-line’, in order to highlight what the main character was being forced to leave. This mission resulted in an incredible collaboration with the artists, artisans, and musicians, and the film is so much richer for it.”

Queen of the Andes draws upon many local strengths. Familiar faces from the theatre, visual arts, music and film communities either appear on screen or are credited behind the scenes. Anyone involved or familiar with the local arts communities will find a connection to this film. Even the art that appears on the walls of offices and apartments have a local connection.

But while there is so much to easily love and appreciate about Queen of the Andes, it’s important not to forget Acreman’s role in it all. It’s her film. And it’s her writing and her vision, her script that makes it all work. The whole concept of dystopian futures has been played out a good many times, but it’s Acreman skill as a writer that makes Queen of the Andes a worthwhile watch. Her take on the dystopian theme is both low key and highly believable – two characteristics rarely associated with fictional futures.

Unfortunately, it’s looking like it will be another year before Acreman, Martinez and everyone involved in this film will be able to gather in the same space to enjoy a screening together. This reality presented Acreman and her team with a tough decision.

Bhreagh MacNeil and Ryan Griffith in a scene from shot at the Fredericton Public Library.

“COVID has altered our exhibition plans of course,” said Acreman. “Arianna and I discussed whether to submit to the Silver Wave Film Festival this year. Ultimately we felt that because so many locals were involved in the production, we would wait a year so that we could have a hometown screening in person. There’s a sense of loss for filmmakers in not being able to watch with live audiences and we feel we owe it to the community and ourselves to wait until we can safely celebrate together.”

Queen of the Andes will be available for streaming through the Atlantic International Film Festival’s website from September 17-24 with single ticket or bubble viewing options available. You can buy your tickets HERE. See this film. 

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