The Golden Sheaf Awards have named their best film of the 2020 Yorkton Film Festival, and it goes to Mr. Berry, a profile of math teacher and tutor Brij Berry from Prince George, B.C. The film won two awards, also taking home the prize in the History and Biography category.
Director Daniel Stark said that he was beyond surprised that they took home the top award, expecting that the History and Biography category would be the limit for the documentary.
“I was amazed with that award, but to find out it was Best in Festival blew my mind.”
To Stark, seeing the film win awards speaks to the impact of its subject. Berry already has made an impact in his community, but Stark is proud to see him make an impact beyond Prince George.
“Mr. Berry is such a special guy, and he had such a big impact on me, it means a lot to know that his message and what he lives for is kind of connecting with everybody, not just the people in the community or the people who have met him. I think that his message is really positive, and really important, and to find out that there are people in Yorkton who responded to it, it means a lot for sure.”
The film began with funding from Telus to community stories. While trying to find a story to tell at the time, Stark’s girlfriend’s sister was being tutored by Berry, and he happened to pick her up after one of her sessions.
“I grew up down the road from Mr. Berry but I had never met him. He was always this local legend, who was this guy? When I went to go pick up her sister, I got to sit in the room and see him teaching, and I thought this guy has a story, guaranteed. Once Telus asked us if we had any ideas, we pitched this Mr. Berry idea, not even knowing his story, just getting to have a glimpse of him in person was enough to know there was something there.”
That instinct paid off, and Stark said that his story far exceeded their expectations, and he said it was an honor just to meet the legend, let alone make a film about him.
Berry himself wasn’t hard to convince, and Stark was surprised, since he is a private person.
“He kept saying he was honored by the idea that someone would want to tell his story, and he was an absolute joy to work with. He would open up his door to us every day, he would offer us tea, cookies, food. I think he really enjoyed the process, and through doing it we became very, very close.”
Stories like Mr. Berry are important to show the depth of a town and the range of people who are making an impact in the lives around them, said Stark.
“I think it’s so important to tell stories about people who are under the radar or are different from the people who you see. Especially in a place like Prince George, small towns get a reputation. These are the people who are here, these are the people who are making a difference. Mr. Berry is the perfect example of someone who, the people who come in contact with him know he’s a hero, know the impact he’s having on the community, and know the legacy he’ll be leaving behind. A lot of people will have an idea of what a Prince George hero looks like, and it’s important to show Mr. Berry is a hero and there are plenty of people like him.”
Stark said that while he knew the documentary would be meaningful to the people who knew Berry, he’s glad that it’s a story that connects to people who have never met Berry.
“He’s universal, and you don’t need to know him to appreciate his story and appreciate what he is trying to do.”
Berry himself didn’t know that the film had won when Yorkton This Week spoke to Stark, and he said that he was looking forward to telling him.
“When you tell Mr. Berry the success that the film is having, he treats it like he’s your parent, he’s proud of you, he’s not so concerned with the rest of it. He’s just proud of us as filmmakers and his new young friends, he doesn’t take any of the credit, even though he’s the man behind all of the emotions, the man behind all the messaging.”
Stark thanked the Yorkton Film Festival for supporting filmmakers like himself, and he said that in his trip to the city for the 2019 festival he was very impressed with the work the festival does, the films they support and the organization behind it. He thanks them for the recognition and the support the festival gives to young and rural filmmakers.
“I would love to come back, I had a lot of fun and I feel like there’s a lot more fun to be had.”