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Opportunity and Removing Barriers A Core Theme of The 23rd Annual Gimli International Film Festival

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Since the first show to a paying audience in December 1895 and with several national film industries established in 1914, movies and films have captivated the imagination and attention of the world.

Celebrating 23 years, the Gimli International Film Festival (GIFF) has taken the initiative to ensure its programming is accessible to everyone, whether it’s someone looking to enjoy local or international films and documentaries or industry professionals. The approximately 90 km journey to Gimli, Manitoba, is a bit of a drive and presents a barrier for individuals who might want to experience more than one day of the five-day festival and may not have the resources to stay at a hotel or rent a space for the entire time.

“Because of the way it’s set up, it can be a bit daunting for some people, without the same privileges or means to access the festival,” says GIFF Executive Director Alan Wong. “Reducing those barriers was incredibly important to us, so we’re implementing a shuttle service from Winnipeg so people who don’t drive can take the shuttle, which is also part of the Outreach program, and providing it to individuals for free. Volunteers, filmmakers, and people should have a stake and a part of the community the Gimli International Film Festival has created.”

Accessibility goes even further. The festival is well-known for its free community Sunset Screenings on Gimli Beach, and an indoor accessible screen of the opening film will also be available. GIFF was approached by Direct Action in Support of Community Homes (DASCH) to look into options for an accessible screening. 

The opening film on Wednesday, July 26, will be “Champions,” a Manitoba-shot sports comedy starring Woody Harrelson. The other Sunset Screenings include:

  • Thursday, July 27: “Song of the Sea”
  • Friday, July 28: “The Greatest Showman”
  • Saturday, July 29: “Top Gun”
  • Sunday, July 30 “Buffy Ste. Marie: Carry it On.”

A Virtual Festival will also be available with an on-demand catalogue.

According to Wong, celebrating international and local films is only part of what GIFF offers. Building the filmmaking community is another important aspect of the festival.

“Of course, we want to showcase the best films, but we also like to enhance those films by inviting those filmmakers to attend the festival to be a part of it and maybe put on some sort of talk or Q&A or be part of a panel discussion. Manitoba has a very healthy and booming film industry, and we have a  lot of partners that are keen to help develop the filmmaking community here. The more filmmakers that are here, the more opportunities there are for everybody and the more art can come from it.”

The Global Industry Summit is an initiative to develop the local film community. The 11  industry-tailored sessions provide filmmakers and enthusiasts with invaluable knowledge and networking opportunities.

The festival also includes special film screenings:

  • Young Filmmakers Program – A screening of short films by students in selected high school film & video production programs from across Manitoba.
  • Winnipeg Indigenous Filmmaking Collective Screening – A screening of short films by members of the WIFC. This is a competitive program with a prize going to the winner.
  • Best of Manitoba Festivals Program – A screening of award-winning short films from the many niche film festivals in Manitoba! See what has been making an impact in those communities as festival organizers gather to network and promote their events.
  • 48-Hour Film Competition Screening – A screening of the entrants into this exciting contest organized by the 48-Hour Film Competition.

Supporting local talent is another mission of GIFF, says Wong. Along with the various screenings celebrating local talent, five finalists of the record 33 submissions have been selected for the 12th Annual RBC $10,000 Emerging Filmmaker Pitch Competition.

2023 Finalists:

  • Catherine Dulude — “Petit mollusque”
  • Sarah Luby — “Night Terrors”
  • Reed Makayev — “Interloper”
  • Farrah Murdock — “Regalia”
  • Ethan Stark — “Haircut

Finalists will have a three-minute opportunity to pitch their submitted short film idea to a jury and audience,  and the winner will receive $10,000 to make their film.

Over the five-day event, thousands of attendees are expected to make their way to the rural Manitoba town of a little over 2,000 residents, one of several major events the community hosts, including the Icelandic Icelandic Festival Of Manitoba. Wong says although Winnipeg doesn’t have a film festival, having a premier event in a small town feels fitting.

“Every major city seems to have its own identifying film festival that represents the province or at least the region. In Manitoba, it’s Gimli. I think it’s really great because it represents Manitoba in a lot of ways. Manitobans love nature, and they love going out camping, to the cabin, to the lake, especially in the summertime.”

For more information about the 23rd Gimli International Film Festival, July 26-30, 2023, visit

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

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