Gimli Fest celebrates 10 years

Manitoba festival hands out pitch prizes and lauds High Life

GIMLI, MANITOBA – A webseries penned by Ryan FitzGerald (Rogue Nation Studios) chronicling the plight of American citizens forced to leave their country as refugees picked up the 2010 Rogers and Manitoba Film & Music $15,000 pitch prize at the 10th annual Gimli Film Festival.

FitzGerald was one of 47 filmmakers who had 3 minutes to pitch their project to a panel of broadcast executives at the five-day festival, which wrapped Sunday night in the small prairie town that’s shaped the careers of experimental filmmaker Guy Maddin (Tales from the Gimli Hospital) and award-winning director Norma Bailey (The Capture of the Green River Killer). Maddin, one of the festival’s advisors, is a long-time summer resident and Bailey, who sits on the GFF board grew up here.

Since its founding in 2000 to commemorate the arrival of Erik the Red at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland a millennium ago, GFF has become one of the province’s most important film events. It initially screened films by Icelandic-Canadian and Icelandic directors and then expanded to include Circumpolar nations.

‘The Gimli Festival has evolved into Manitoba’s premiere film festival,’ director Sean Garrity (Zooey and Adam) told Playback Daily. ‘It’s a chance for filmmakers from here to get together and to really connect with their audience and to celebrate our industry our own way.’

The GFF’s programming goal is to screen independent films and mainstream documentaries and features from the chilly countries that circle the Arctic pole. The festival also has an extensive short program which this year includes a spotlight on Nunavut.

‘Filmmakers love coming here because it’s so laid back. We give them a chance to talk with the audiences and they can hang out at the beach,’ says festival director Kristine Sigurdson.

The fest also features industry panels on producing skills, art design and cinematography. And through its Insight series the GFF annually takes a close look at a Canadian film and dissects how it gets made, from the scriptwriting to the post-production phase. This year the featured film was High Life, by Manitoba director Gary Yates, who was in Gimli to discuss his work.

‘The industry panels were very well attended this year,’ says Sigurdson, adding that roughly 5,000 people attended the festival, a 25% increase over last year.

In addition to the $15,000 pitch prize the GFF also hands out a $1000 award for the Best Manitoba Short, which this year went to Curtis L. Wiebe’s The Devil Wears a Paper Hat. A $1,000 artistic achievement prize also went Gabriela Pichier for her film Scratches.

Originally settled by Icelanders, Gimli is the largest community of its kind in North America. Maddin, who spends summers here, made the town famous on the art house circuit with his 1988 cult film Tales from the Gimli Hospital, and is one of the fest’s advisors. The director also inspired one of the GFF’s most unique features: movies on the beach. Supported by a steel scaffold mounted temporarily in Lake Winnipeg’s hard sandy bottom, a 35-foot screen rises out of the expanse of water.

The festival is the brainchild of former Gimli resident and Senator for Selkirk-Interlake Janis Johnson. One of GFF’s principal patrons is David Asper, also a Gimli summer resident.