NSI’s Brendon Sawatzky reports on Gimli Film Festival 2009

A few months ago I was asked to participate in Gimli Film Festival‘s workshops and seminars programming committee.

The festival has been growing since its inception, so it was an obvious choice to include more programming related to panel discussions, training seminars and dialogues related to filmmaking. I was pleased to be asked to contribute and happy to help.

The film lineup included dramatic features, shorts and feature documentaries, both international and domestic along with a distinct Icelandic flavour.

Those of us on the committee all agreed to make the best use of the filmmakers who would be attending the festival with their films and to highlight those films as potential case studies during the panels and seminars.

When I arrived in Gimli with my wife Fran – we decided we were officially on holiday and quickly found a more relaxed atmosphere than I’ve felt at other festivals. No doubt this had to do with Gimli’s own laid back summer-holiday-resort-town feeling.

I found myself wondering why this was our first visit to Gimli for the festival.

After checking into the Lakeview Hotel, we grabbed a bite to eat and then took in Act of God a new doc by Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier which was well received by the audience.

Then it was time for the opening night reception where we spotted a number of familiar filmmaking faces.

After a quick stop at the bar, we took our drinks out to the patio for a spectacular view of the lake and some conversation.

Shortly before 10 p.m., we made our way down to the beach for a screening of Mike Leigh’s latest feature Happy Go Lucky which was preceded by Matthew Rankin and Mike Maryniuk’s award-winning short Cattle Call.

It was good to see so many people on the beach for the screenings, Gimli’s community clearly supports the festival.

The next day we had breakfast on the Lakeview’s patio followed by a meeting with John Dippong from Telefilm while Fran headed off to check out Tergesen’s and do some shopping.

John and I were met by Tara Walker from On Screen Manitoba, Carole Vivier from Manitoba Film and Music and Liz Jarvis from Buffalo Gals to discuss that afternoon’s panel on the state of feature filmmaking in Canada.

By 11:30 a.m. it was time for lunch and I realized that I had been sitting in the sun the entire morning and had started turning a bright shade of red.

Moving to another table, one with some shade, I caught up with my team for the Rogers and Manitoba Film and Music $20,000 pitching competition. Winnipeg-based filmmaker Kevin Doherty and I had recently been shortlisted to pitch a project at the inaugural competition.

The pitch was held in Gimli’s Aspire Theatre, an old church right next to the movie theatre.

It was a packed house and, judging by the quality of the pitches, was a great way to illustrate the incredible creative talent that we have in Manitoba’s filmmaking community.

After an entire afternoon of pitches, Ross McMillan was awarded the $20k prize for his original projectEco-Cafe.

Following up the pitch was the feature filmmaking panel, also well-attended and offering practical advice for those in attendance looking to make their own features.

As soon as the panel was finished, Fran and I got in the car and headed back into Winnipeg for a friend’s wedding.

The next day we were back in Gimli to watch Prom Night in Mississippi by Paul Saltzman and Patricia Aquino. If you haven’t already seen this film, I encourage you to do so!

Later that evening we attended the Manitoba filmmaker’s reception which, true to it’s word, was well attended by Manitoba filmmakers.

Gimli is a great place to watch films, either on the beach or in one of the venues. Fran and I will be back next year. Thanks to all the hard working festival staff and volunteers!

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