Sturla Gunnarsson heads to northern Manitoba to mentor National Screen Institute participant on WWII film

Sturla Gunnarsson
Rachel-Young

Rachel Young

Outreach and Engagement Lead

Award-winning film and television director Sturla Gunnarsson has signed on as director mentor for the New Northern Voices program run by the National Screen Institute – Canada (NSI).

NSI New Northern Voices is a part-time, online training program designed to strengthen the skills and abilities of new and emerging writers to craft stories told from a northern Manitoba perspective. Participants workshop their script and learn the essentials of screenwriting, with one participant selected to produce their project.

In this mentoring role, Sturla will work alongside participant Steven Bignell whose project The Tomahawk was selected for production. Steven is from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas, Manitoba.

The Tomahawk follows an experienced Cree scout and a lost German boy during World War II. They put their differences aside and try to make their way home in war-torn Germany.

“Steven Bignell has been making art in Opaskwayak for 35 years – I look forward to working with him. His film is personal, inspired by stories of his uncle, a Cree trapper who fought for Canada behind enemy lines as a sapper in World War II,” says Sturla.

“Steven has built all the costumes, props and weapons and sketched much of the film already. I expect to learn as much as I impart and look forward to helping any way I can. It’s been a while since I carried equipment in the bush.”

Sturla will join Steven and fellow New Northern Voices participant Stuart Matheson in The Pas in March as they begin production. Stuart will serve as producer for The Tomahawk, and has been working alongside Steven as they’ve entered production.

Sturla’s distinguished career spans four decades, with experience in documentary, feature and television work. Films include Rare BirdsBeowulf & Grendel and Monsoon; television projects include Schitt’s CreekDegrassi: The Next Generation, Street Legal and 19-2.

Sturla received an Academy Award® nomination for his first documentary film After the Axe which he directed and produced. He also received an International Emmy Award® for his film Gerrie & Louise.

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NSI New Northern Voices 2021-22 is funded by NSI Indigenous Training Programs Partner Directors Guild of Canada (DGC); Strategic Sponsor Telefilm Canada; Supporting Sponsors StantecRBC Emerging Artists ProjectTELUS Manitoba Community Board, and Super Channel; Provincial Sponsor Manitoba Film & Music; Industry Partner Entertainment Partners; Industry Supporter Final DraftNative Communications Inc. and Jan Miller, International Consultant, Pitching, Content Development; NSI Core Funders are Manitoba Sport, Culture & Heritage and the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council.

NSI New Northern Voices is the direct result of a National Screen Institute feasibility study and framework for northern training, supported by Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage, The Winnipeg Foundation and Manitoba Film & Music.

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About the National Screen Institute – Canada (NSI)

Propelled by a visionary network of donors, private and public organizations, board members and staff, the National Screen Institute supports creators from across Canada to tell unforgettable stories. Through industry-informed training and mentoring in film, television and digital media, students and alumni find their voice and place on the global stage, inspiring us to shape a better world.

We are committed to training participants from a diverse community of voices including Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and two-spirit (LGBTQ2S+), people with disabilities, those outside large urban centres, those from regional and remote areas and various religious groups.

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Rachel Young, Outreach and Engagement Lead


The National Screen Institute is supported by: Core Funders: Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage, the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council; Benefactors: TELUS, Telefilm Canada, Canada Media Fund (CMF), Department for Women and Gender Equality (WAGE); Patrons: CBC, Creative Saskatchewan; Builders: APTN, TikTok Canada, Indigenous Screen Office (ISO), The Winnipeg Foundation; Indigenous Training Programs Partner: Directors Guild of Canada; Strategic Sponsors: Manitoba Film & Music, Bell Media, RBC Emerging Artists, documentary Channel, CBC Gem, Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD), Alberta Film Commission, Manitoba Arts Council; Industry Partner: National Film Board of Canada; Friends: Ontario Creates, Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC), Bell Fund, Stantec, William F. White International, Company 3.