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Saskatoon hosts the Tattoo Arts Film Festival

Go check out the first ever tattoo genre film festival!

Lovin’ the tattoo action. / B. Jonathan Michaels
Lovin’ the tattoo action. / B. Jonathan Michaels

Tattoos. Some people hate ‘em. Some people love ‘em. I love ‘em because, personally, I think tattoos are one of the coolest art forms of life. And, what do you get when you come across sick tattoos and films about tattoos? The Tattoo Arts Film Festival!

In fact, this festival, which is the first tattoo genre film festival ever, will take place in good ol’ Saskatoon, SK on Apr. 4 and 5 at The Roxy Theatre. Atta be S’toon for making history. Finally.

Anywho, Mark Allard, the organizer of the Tattoo Arts Film Festival states, “Tattoo has branched out in many strange ways in previous years leading up to now. Essentially, what’s happened is we’ve now got this art form that’s turned into celebrity status, and it’s turned into an industry as well as an art form.”

So, basically, tattoo TV shows like L.A. Ink have turned tattooing into a billion dollar industry, making the idea of a tattoo genre film festival pretty dang suitable for today’s tattoo-lovers. But, the question is, with this being the first ever tattoo film festival, will people be receptive to it? Even Allard isn’t quite sure.

“It might be something that’s really successful, and maybe I’ll be credited sometime in the future like a progenitor of that. Or maybe it’s going to be something that doesn’t take, and that’s it,” says Allard. “So, it could essentially be something that’s part of that industry, or it just kind of becomes seen as a novelty I guess, so I don’t know at the moment yet. But, it feels pretty good to be at the cusp of something that’s going to go either way.”

Heck yeah, champ! I personally think the Tattoo Arts Film Festival will go swimmingly just because, in my books, tattoos + films from around the world about tattoos = two days of nonstop tattoo awesomeness. Seriously, who can pass that up?!

Oh, and about those “films from around the world about tattoos,” I’m not joking. Allard used the Canadian platform of a website called Film Freeway to collect submissions for the festival.

Tattoo-film-makers from Tahiti, Polynesia, Europe, ‘Merica, South America, Japan, and even Canada (wooooo! Canadians represent!) submitted films for the festival.

“To be honest, I’m really surprised with the submissions we got,” Allard states. “Really surprised. It seems like people really did warm to the idea of it being the world’s first tattoo genre film festival…we’ve got some award winning films [and] some films that got award winning directors attached to them. We got some absolutely great stuff.”

In this culmination of “great stuff” stands a film from Veronica Tricker who tattoos out of the ON2U tattoo studio in Saskatoon and the film The Skin I’m In, which features the artwork of Canadian First Nations Artist Rande Cook and tells the story of Broderick Fox: a man who uses tattoos to celebrate his identity as a gay male who has struggled with alcoholism and has overcome years of self-abuse.

Allard states, “With the time that we’re in at the moment as a society, there’s some films in there that cover the narrative of social acceptance; they’re quite a powerful notion of social acceptance and diversity, and I think that’s a powerful narrative on the human fold altogether.”

I concur. But, that’s not all folks. With films coming from around the world, there’s a ton of interesting info about other cultures’ tattoo cultures.

“The thing that’s really interesting about that is we’ve got this dialogue about all civilizations and all people, even going into Indigenous cultures like the Indigenous cultures of Tahiti, which is really, really intriguing,” says Allard.

Heck yeah that’s intriguing! I can barely pronounce “Tahiti” and know zero about their tattoo culture, so I find it pretty dang sweet that this Tattoo Arts Film Festival is bringing in films from around the world not only for entertainment and artistic purposes, but also to educate our little Canadian society on tattoo culture around the globe. That’s pretty legit.

Now, what to do with all these films coming in? Hmmm. Screen them for an audience and casually eat some popcorn while watching them? Not quite. There’s going to be awards, people! Allard, Veronica from the ON2U tattoo studio in Saskatoon, and a budding Saskatoon film critic will judge the films before the festival begins and have the awards ready to go for an awards ceremony on the last night of the festival. Such fun.

Solid artsing right there. / Gered Langley
Solid artsing right there. / Gered Langley

And now *drum roll please* I will ask the question that I’m sure everyone on this planet (or at least just me) is most certainly wondering: “Are there going to be tattoo artists tattooing festival-goers on site?” Allard explains:

“We’re trying to branch away from the convention feeling, and I’m not sure if that’s something that’s going to go down too well with the tattoo crowd that might be there. I’m not sure if they’re going to like it, being film-centric.”

Notice that Allard didn’t directly answer my question. Yes, the festival will centre around the films, but will there be tattooing going on simultaneously? Who knows! I guess you’ll have to come to find out. HA! Gotcha.

However, even if there isn’t going to be any live tattooing action, the Tattoo Arts Film Festival seems like it’s going to be a sick, killer time, anyway, with plenty of intriguing films and live music on the night of Apr. 4. Tickets for the Tattoo Arts Film Festival on Apr. 4-5 are $50 before service fees (those darn service fees) and available at www.picatic.com/TattooArtsFilmFestival.

Now, with everything that I’ve mentioned thus far, including the event date, the venue at The Roxy Theatre, the film submissions coming in, the judging, the awards night, live music, where to get tickets *takes breath* and everything I haven’t mentioned like advertising, designing posters for the event, and setting up a system to sell tickets, how much stuff did Allard actually have to consider to plan this international film festival?

“It’s literally everything,” Allard says. “And it boggles the mind compared to where I started to where we are now…how much we had to look at. And, it’s a lot of stuff.”

No kidding. My goodness gracious, how this man planned this festival without going insane or ending up with a head of nice grey hair, I will never know. But, that’s beside the point.

I continue. To promote the Tattoo Arts Film Festival, Allard put on a preview event in Saskatoon on Feb. 20 that kicked butt. It included the photographic art of B. Jonathan Michaels, naked model painting (can’t get much better than that) where artist Reg Morrell painted nude models’ entire bodies in airbrush paint, photography of the tattooed and airbrush-painted models, music, booze, and, of course, trailers of the films that will be shown at the festival in April.

“That went really well actually,” says Allard. “We didn’t really know how that was going to go, because we mixed so many things together like photography, airbrush painting, and then the trailers for the festival, but we had a good response. There were about 70-80 people that turned out.”

Ah, the sweet, sweet smell of success. My logic? A successful preview event = a successful event in April. Boom.

To those who will come to the festival and to those who have helped support the festival thus far, Allard says, “I hope everyone enjoys it, and thank you to anyone who has supported the festival so far and followed its development.”

And to those who will not end up going to the festival, I say, “Whatever. Enjoy your boring, no-tattoo life watching crappy shows on TV instead of watching cool tattoo films. You’re missing out.”

About Destiny Kaus

Former carillon production manager/arts editor/arts writer.