Over 70 movies from around the world are visiting Manitoba this July to be screened at the Gimli International Film Festival.
There are films from Sweden, Japan, Finland, Chad, India, South Africa, Iceland, the U.S. and Norway, and of course a healthy contingent of Canadian content, with several Manitoba-made and produced films scheduled to roll across the screen from July 20-24.
As the programmers announced the list Thursday afternoon at the Fort Garry Hotel, they almost got tired, because there is simply so much to see, including Canadian coming-of-age dramas (Scarborough, Wildhood, Islands), a Cannes-winning black comedy (The Worst Person in the World), an Oscar-nominated documentary (Flee), and an extensive program of shorts.
And yes, executive director Alan Wong says, the free films on the beach — with a giant screen plunked into Lake Winnipeg — are back too.
It’s a return to form and to place for the festival, which in 2019 enjoyed the most well-attended event in its 22-year history: 13,000 attendees flooded the lakeside resort town to watch movies together. The last two years, with the pandemic in full swing, the festival has happened mostly in virtual formats. But in 2022, the festival will return to its sandy roots in Gimli.
Senior programmer David Knipe said the slate of films is one of the most diverse in the festival’s history, with a little bit of everything available to see. Shira Newman, who programmed the documentaries, said narrowing down the field was one of the more challenging parts of the job.
Potential standouts include Indigenous sci-fi/alien-invasion film Slash/Back; Cliff: a Portrait of an Artist, a documentary about the late local artist Cliff Eyland; the Toronto-shot Filipino diaspora comedy-drama Islands, which stars two Manitoban first-time actors in lead roles; Wildhood, which follows two Mi’kmaw brothers discovering their heritage while fleeing their abusive father; the explicit Swedish pornstar character study Pleasure; and the contemplative Latinx themed documentary My Two Voices.
Newman was particularly excited about Geographies of Solitude, a documentary feature about the lone naturalist living on the remote Sable Island, a mass in the Northwest Atlantic with hundreds of wild horses, thousands of seals, and untold numbers of stories.
The full lineup, and ticket information, is available at gimlifilm.com.
Winnipeg filmmaker Chase Gouthro’s debut documentary, Anything Can Happen, about a mother’s embrace of cannabis treatment for her young son’s epilepsy, will be making its public Manitoba première at the festival after winning a prize at the Montreal Independent Film Festival and screening at the Toronto Documentary Film Festival.
He would have been pleased to have the film show at the Gimli festival regardless of format, but he said he’s especially happy it will be in person. “It’s a very fulfilling experience to be able to show your film in a room full of people,” he said at the lineup announcement. “To be in Gimli will be very special.”
One of the festival’s most popular features has always been its free beach screenings. In announcing the lineup of freebies, festival board member Terry MacLeod brought a prop. “All you need is one of these,” he said, holding up a plaid beach blanket. “You can borrow mine if you need.”
The beach screenings include the on-the-nose Tom Hanks classic Castaway, the Ang Li-directed Oscar winner Life of Pi, the Abba-filled musical romp Mamma Mia, the Hawaiian extraterrestrial family film Lilo and Stitch, and the workplace satire 9 to 5 — which turns 40 this year and will have a companion documentary showing at the festival as well.
There will also be a secret Saturday-night screening of the debut picture of a local filmmaker, which Knipe said shouldn’t be missed. Wong was already in a beachy mood, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and said he was excited to see longtime and new attendees make their way to the festival and the town.
“It’s the location which makes (the festival) unique,” says Wong, who first attended as a patron six years ago and fell in love with the town’s quaint, approachable vibe.
“It will be good to be back.”