Gimli’s film festival returns with slate of classic and cutting edge cinema

The projectors are rolling and the popcorn is popping for the first time since 2019 as the Gimli Film Festival — make that the Gimli International Film Festival, more on that later — welcomes film-goers back to the lakeside community’s theatres.

Event preview

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Gimli International Film Festival
Wednesday to Sunday at four theatres and sunset beach screenings in Gimli
For a full schedule and festival passes, visit

Seventy films will be screened in Gimli by the time the event winds up Sunday night.

Getting the festival band back together and attracting volunteers to help it run smoothly has been a challenge that executive director Alan Wong says they’ve managed to overcome.

“It is very challenging and it’s been very hectic this year, but I’ve been hearing that a lot from arts organizations and festivals,” says Wong, who took over the job at the beginning of 2022 after attending the festival as a fan and filmmaker. “The patrons are keen to come back, but the partners, the vendors, everybody you need to work with to make a festival go, everybody’s either been so busy this year or have been struggling with resources or struggling with staff, so operations aren’t as smooth as pre-pandemic times.”

The festival begins Wednesday night with a screening of Band, an Icelandic mockumentary released earlier this year that’s been described as a female performance-art version of This Is Spinal Tap.


It’s one of two films from Iceland that are part of the 2022 festival, with the other being Quake (Skjálfti), a 2021 drama focusing on a young mother’s epilepsy diagnosis and her lost memories, which will be shown Thursday night at 9:45 p.m. at the Gimli Lutheran Church Theatre.


It also signals the return to the festival’s sandy foundation, its nightly beach screenings, which take place at Gimli beach and emanate from an 11-metre screen set up in Lake Winnipeg and directed at viewers perched on lawn chairs or relaxing on beach blankets.

“There is a lot of preparation that goes into it. We have a team of really dedicated volunteers who set up the scaffolding (that holds up the screen),” Wong says, adding rain in Gimli on Monday lengthened the setup process. “It’s always a challenge logistically. We have to have the permits for it. We have to have the manpower to set it up in the water.”

Four films worth watching

The shows start at 10 p.m., and Wong says Wednesday night’s opening film, Cast Away, is an ideal relaunch of the popular series, and not just because Gimli beach has seen its share of Wilson volleyballs over the years.

“Cast Away, to me, was one of my first choices,” Wong says. “Not just because it’s a classic — and who doesn’t love Tom Hanks? — but it also deals with some of these themes of isolation and survival we’re all too familiar with the last couple of years.”

This week’s other beachside screenings are: Lilo & Stitch (Thursday night); Mamma Mia! (Friday); Life of Pi (Saturday) and 9 to 5 (Sunday).

The 1980 comedy starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman might not be classic beach viewing, but it does provide the background for another GIFF film, Still Working 9 to 5, a 2022 documentary that reveals the workplace inequality that was the comedy’s theme remains a fact of life for women 42 years later.

“It goes back and interviews all those stars and filmmakers and it talks about (9 to 5) and its effect on society and the condition of women’s working rights nowadays,” Wong says of the new documentary, which screens Thursday at 4:15 p.m. at Gimli Theatre.


The festival introduced virtual screenings for the 2020 and 2021 editions after the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions prevented audiences from attending movie screenings in theatres.

In so doing, it attracted viewers from afar to check out what the festival offered, and gave reason for organizers to add International to the festival’s name.


Life of Pi screens Saturday as part of the beach screenings, which are back along with the festival itself, newly retitled the Gimli International Film Festival, so named because online versions in 2020 and 2021 were so popular around the world.

The virtual screenings remain in 2022, with 20 of the festival’s offerings available for viewing until Aug. 7 with the purchase of a $50 GIFF online pass.

Individual tickets, which cost $15 or festival passes, which sell for $150, are available at and the GIFF box office at Gimli’s Lakeview Resort at 73 1st Ave. Day passes ($30) are also on sale, though Friday and Saturday passes are sold out.

Twitter: @AlanDSmall

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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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