Filmmaker captures Saskatchewan farm’s struggles, triumphs

Some documentary filmmakers can feel like interlopers in the stories they choose to tell. For Kolby Kostyniuk, making his latest film was like returning to his natural habitat.

“Doing this movie felt like going home,” he said.

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Kostyniuk’s documentary, “Boom or Bust on the Simpson Family Farm,” opens with a text crawl explaining how the number of Saskatchewan family farms has fallen from over 142,000 to under 35,000 during the last 80 years. It’s a harsh statistic.

The film explores one such family farm, which is run by two brothers, Trevor and Jason Simpson.

“[It’s a] window into the life of the Saskatchewan farmer,” Kostyniuk said. “[There are] a lot of struggles and disagreements.”

Kostyniuk will introduce the Simpson brothers to Yorkton at the upcoming film festival. His documentary is in the running for the Ruth Shaw Award (Best of Saskatchewan). Kostyniuk, who received a nomination for Best Student Production at YFF last year, is thrilled to return to the festival.

“It feels great [to be nominated],” he said. “YFF is an awesome opportunity.”

Wally Start, the owner of Bamboo Shoots, the production company that backed Kostyniuk’s film, is over the moon with the director’s nomination.

“I feel honoured that it caught the judges’ eyes,” he said.

Kostyniuk said the story of the farm fell into his lap.

“[The brothers] invited me into their lives,” he said.

During filming, Kostyniuk aimed to be upfront and straightforward with his storytelling.

“I tried to tell it as honestly as possible,” he said.

That honesty revealed some blunt moments, as the brother routinely speak their minds throughout the film.

“These farmers are rough around the edges, but they’re charismatic,” Kostyniuk said.

At 39 minutes, “Boom or Bust on the Simpson Family Farm” is easily the longest film competiting for the Ruth Shaw Award. According to Kostyniuk, the documentary could have been even longer.

“My first cut [of the film] was an hour long,” he said.

“The hardest thing for the team [to do] was to cut [the film] down to its essence,” Start said.

Kostyniuk is proud of his film. He hopes he can return to the subject matter.

“I would love to do another doc like this,” he said.

Looking ahead to YFF, Kostyniuk is excited to share his work and speak with like-minded artists.

“Connecting with the community of Yorkton is huge,” he said. “I’m looking forward to talking to people about our craft.”

“Boom or Bust on the Simpson Family Farm” will be screened on May 25 at the BMO Sports Lounge in the Gallagher Centre at 11:30 a.m. 

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