A new cinematic world in small town Manitoba

Gimli Film Festival brought a new perspective to an attendee's second home

Although I grew up and live in Winnipeg, Gimli is my second home.

Summertime, to me, means regular trips to Gimli for evenings on the boardwalk, nights at Brennivins, Ship & Plough Tavern or the pier and lunch at Kris’ Fish & Chips.

The Gimli Film Festival (GFF) has always been at the periphery of my life there. I kept putting off attending the festival to the following summer. This year, I finally got the chance to attend the GFF and see what I had been missing.

The GFF began in 2001 and is now Canada’s largest rural film festival, showcasing films and shorts from both Canadian and international creators.

Of the 141 films showcased this year, 62 were made in Manitoba.

The showings boasted a diverse crowd, filled with locals and visiting retirees, young film students, educators and tourists.

Even with a beautiful sunny day and the breeze coming off Lake Winnipeg, GFF attendees chose to spend their weekend indoors in dark galleries and churches for no other reason than the love of film.

This year’s films included Future Work, an anthology of Canadian and international short films related to the past, present and future of labour. This included local director Rowan Gray’s debut Alternating Current, which was up for Best Manitoba Short.

The anthology also included a silent look into Chinese sweat shops with Foreign Quarters by Rajee Samarasinghe, and the story of Greenland sled dog hunter Martin Madsen in The Hunter by Frederik Wolff. Future Work also featured a Black Mirror meets The Office mockumentary, Couleur du Moment by Jeremy Sandor.

One of my favourites of the festival, One Child Nation, follows filmmaker Nanfu Wang as she uncovers the intimate stories of China’s now-abolished one-child policy and the generations affected by it.

The film was horrifying, haunting and fearless in how it stared down the reality of the policy’s consequences.

It is a personal journey for the creators, but also a vital piece of archival history that will ensure that these stories will not be forgotten or obscured by decades of government propaganda.

Due to limited time I was not able to see more of the GFF. There was a myriad of interesting films for a variety of interests, including the Indigenous Filmmakers Association’s short films, Penny Lane’s Hail Satan? — a documentary about the Satanic Temple — and numerous foreign and indie films.

The festival’s executive director Aaron Zeghers told Global News that the GFF has made diversity a higher priority, showcasing 85 films directed by women and holding their second annual Future is Female* mentorship program.

The 19th GFF broke records with this year’s attendees reaching over 13,000.

I am already eagerly awaiting the 20th GFF. The GFF’s commitment to showcasing a diverse range of films broadened my view of the world and our place in it from the comfort of my second home.