Fredericton filmmaker Jillian Acreman’s feature debut wins Best Canadian First Feature at Victoria Film Festival.
For any artist, there is an undeniable sense of satisfaction that comes from sharing a completed work with an audience. After all the effort put into creating something original that you can call your own, it always feels good to have your work qualified by others. This sense of satisfaction can take many forms. For musicians, it could be as simple as performing a new song before an audience, or the moment new music is officially shared on a streaming service. For actors and designers working in theatre, the same sense of finality often takes place once the curtain rises on opening night. But for filmmakers, particularly those who choose to develop and pursue new audiences through the film festival circuit, achieving this form of completion can take months or in some cases, years.
Fredericton filmmaker Jillian Acreman knows all about patience. Her latest film, Queen of the Andes, also her full-length feature debut, has been finished for some time. Shot in Fredericton with a cast and crew made up almost entirely of local talent, many of the people involved in the film, not to mention her friends and many hometown supporters, are still waiting to see the final product. Originally planned to debut before a local audience at the Silver Wave Film Festival last November, Acreman decided to forgo the 2020 event, which took place entirely online due to COVID, in hopes that the new year would allow audiences, her friends, the her crew and her local cast, to experience the film in-person, the way she imagined it happening long before the film was completed.
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.
“2020 was a wild year to try launching a feature film,” said Acreman. “We premiered at the FIN Atlantic Film Festival in September, and then got rejected from every other Canadian festival taking place in 2020. It was really discouraging to me personally, and really disappointing to not have more exciting news for the cast and crew.”
But as the saying goes, good news comes to those who wait. Last fall, Globe and Mail reviewer Barry Hertz said, “Jillian Acreman is a talent to watch. Whether she decides to stay earthbound for her next project or grasp for an even higher stratosphere is up to her. Personally, I think she could go interstellar.”
Earlier this month, Queen of the Andes, was one of many films featured as part of the Victoria Film Festival where it was named Best Canadian First Feature.
After a disappointing 2020, Acreman’s film now appears to be gathering steam.
“There’s already been a wonderful shift,” she said, commenting on the beginning of a new festival year. “We were programmed at the Victoria Film Festival which felt amazing, and this week they awarded us Best Canadian First Feature! I’d spent all my time just wishing it would be programmed, that the possibility of awards hadn’t crossed my mind. Of course, I don’t think awards are everything, but recognition matters professionally, and personally, it was a moving affirmation.”
Queen of the Andes is scheduled to play at the Omaha Film Festival next month. And if all goes well, New Brunswickers will have their chance to see the film at the Silver Wave Film Festival later this year.
Related: Jillian Acreman’s debut feature film ‘Queen of the Andes’ will premiere at this year’s Atlantic International Film Festival.