Living silver screen dreams at Gimli film fest


Film is not Ken Porteous’s only passion — he recently self-published a history of the Sandy Hook Golf Club — but he misses no opportunity to promote the summer film fest. ‘Did I mention the Gimli Theatre has the best popcorn in Manitoba?’

Ken Porteous might look like a leading man, but he’s perfectly happy being part of the supporting cast.

For nearly a decade, the 67-year-old Sandy Hook resident has volunteered at the Gimli International Film Festival. He’s done almost everything, including selling tickets at the box office, bartending, helping set up the 35-foot beach screen, and directing traffic.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was the venue co-ordinator at the Gimli Theatre, a gig he will resume when the 2022 festival kicks off Wednesday.

“People, people, people,” Porteous says when asked what he most enjoys about the festival. “The team I work with at the theatre. The new friends I make, the sense of community. Working with young (people); they keep me young at heart.”

Porteous has enjoyed films ever since he was a child growing up in Winnipeg, going to Saturday matinees at the old King’s Theatre on Portage Avenue. Casablanca is his all-time favourite.

Porteous himself has appeared on screens around the world as a background performer in more than 20 films and TV shows. That includes appearances in the Paul Gross curling comedy Men with Brooms, Rene Zellweger romantic dramedy New in Town, Kate Beckinsale thriller Whiteout, and a split-second performance as head coach of the St. Louis Blues in the biographical mini-series Wrath of Grapes: the Don Cherry Story II.

He became a background performer for the fun of seeing how movies are made.

“When I go back and I see a movie like Whiteout and I know what I was doing at the time and (I) see the finished product, it’s pretty interesting.”

The Gimli film festival started in 2001, and Porteous became an attendee early on. He started volunteering at the festival eight years ago.

“When people see me, recognize me and tell me the team’s doing a great job, that sticks in my mind. That makes us all feel good.”

Having summers off gives Porteous time to be involved. He just completed his 13th year as a substitute teacher. Prior to entering the classroom, Porteous had a career as head of interpretation for Manitoba Parks.

His philosophy as an educator is the same as his philosophy for life in general: “Always curious, always learning.”

That mantra has led Porteous to pursue a variety of interests. He co-ordinates the Manitoba piping plover recovery program, which aids a species of small shorebirds listed as endangered in Canada.

A lifelong golfer, Porteous recently self-published a pictorial history of the Sandy Hook Golf Club. The book’s release coincided with the club’s centennial July 1.

“I’ve been swinging a club for 60 years. Not very good I might add, but I do love the game,” says Porteous, who has two adult children. “I still enjoy a round of golf with family and friends, and I can hardly wait to play with my grandson who turned eight months (recently).”

Porteous encourages people to visit Gimli and check out this year’s film festival: “Did I mention the Gimli Theatre has the best popcorn in Manitoba?”

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