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2023 Festival

Welcome to the 23rd Annual Gimli International Film Festival!

The 23rd Annual GIFF is right around the corner, and we couldn’t be more excited about what we have in store for you. Last year, our first festival back in-person since the start of the pandemic, felt like we were dipping our toes back in, testing the waters, trying to err on the side of caution when it came to our events. For those who joined us in 2022, the atmosphere was one of positivity and gratitude that things were slowly returning to normal.

Fortunately, this year, social anxiety has dissipated (mostly), the global state of emergency has been lifted, and the desire to gather and celebrate has come back strong. For that reason, I’m happy to announce that GIFF 2023, will be a full five-day schedule, with programming in multiple venues in Gimli from Wednesday, July 26th to Sunday, July 30th.

With over 90 films, including both features and short films as always, selected meticulously by our esteemed Programming Team, which consists of not only Programmers, but also the Programming Committee, a group of professionals in related fields who provide input and different perspectives on film selections. It also includes multiple jurors for the various awards, and pre-screeners, who help to sift through the hundreds of submissions that the festival receives each year. The Programming Team has been exceptional this year, working hard to select a program that will fulfill our mission: to inspire, educate, and empower audiences, while celebrating the art of film and the film community, here in Manitoba.

We’ve released a great promo video on our Youtube Channel, as well as on our website. The video shows just a small selection of the amazing films that will be playing at the festival, along with some of our special events, meant to enhance and deepen the experience for filmmakers and film buffs alike. This video is the work of Enjoy Creative, who has been a wonderful partner for multiple years now and they do fantastic work.

Along with our stellar line-up of films, the festival has a few special initiatives this year that are all about building community. We’ve really tried to reduce the barriers to the festival by increasing our Outreach capacity, partnering with multiple organizations to offer individuals from under-represented communities the opportunity to take in the festival.

We’ve brought back the Industry Pass, a special pass for those who work in the media arts, or with a keen interest in the craft and the business of film. 14 different sessions, all a part of our GIFF Global Industry Summit. These sessions will provide insight and training with partnership from various Industry organizations.

For the first time, a $25 rush-line pass for those 25 and under, will entice more young people to attend and experience the full festival, rather than just one or two films. This, along with the Young Filmmaker Program, a free screening of student films, will help to develop the next generation of filmmakers and fans of the festival.

The Opening Reception sponsored by the Johnston Group, Awards Reception, and Filmmaker Mixer sponsored by Warner Brothers Discovery Access Canada, will welcome our partners, sponsors, and of course filmmakers, volunteers, Industry Passholders, and All-Access Passholders to the celebratory side of the festival, providing opportunities to network, socialize, and enjoy the festival’s official craft beer from our friends at Interlake Brewing.

As in years past, our short film selections will showcase the ingenuity and creativity of short film-makers, grouped into three different thematic programs. On top of that, the always popular Manitoba Shorts in Competition will once again offer the audience the opportunity to vote for their favourite, with the Best Manitoba Short Film Award, juried prize and audience choice prize, both sponsored by Eagle Vision.

Other special short film programs will be the Young Filmmakers Program – a selection of student shorts; the Best of Manitoba Festivals – a showcase bringing together a few of the other amazing film festivals in our province; and finally, the Winnipeg Indigenous Filmmaking Collective Screening – a collection of shorts from this dynamic and engaged group of filmmakers, sponsored by Warner Brothers Discovery Access Canada. These three special short programs are all FREE to the community!

Our Documentary Feature Film selections this year is particularly strong, with many interesting and powerful true stories being explored. For those who are interested in documentary filmmaking, many of the GIFF Global Industry Sessions will cater to you! We’re excited to host the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) to bring you an array of info sessions and professional development opportunities!

The fiction features will likewise be a fantastic selection of stories that combine amazing writing, nuanced performances, and innovative cinematic techniques. Many film academics and aficionados will recognize the name Guy Maddin. He is one of Canada’s most well-known and celebrated filmmakers, with his work screened, studied, and highlighted all over the world. Born in Winnipeg with Icelandic heritage, Guy has a strong connection to Gimli and history with the festival. GIFF is excited to be presenting a collection of three Guy Maddin films as a mini retrospective of his extensive career:

  1. The Redux of his debut feature film, Tales from the Gimli Hospital
  2. along with Brand Upon the Brain!
  3. and The Green Fog.

Guy will be present for Q&A sessions after the films. In addition to this, Guy will join us for an intimate fireside chat, to close out the GIFF Global Industry Summit, sponsored by Manitoba Film & Music. He will be telling stories about the challenges and pitfalls of Indie Filmmaking, in what is sure to be an entertaining and enlightening session.

The RBC Sunset Screening films are sure to bring smiles to people’s faces and their eyes light up with stars, as they do every year. I’m very excited to be opening the festival with the film, Champions, starring Woody Harrelson, a funny and inspiring sports film shot right here in Manitoba! Song of the Sea is a gorgeous animated film by an award-winning Irish animation studio about a “selkie”, a girl who can turn into a seal, based on Celtic folklore. One of the most popular musicals of the last few years, The Greatest Showman, will get everyone singing along to its fantastic songs that have gone on to be viral hits. And a long-time request for the beach – TOP GUN, for those who saw the sequel last year, this will be a great opportunity to re-watch the original! And I am so pleased to be closing out the festival with a documentary by Manitoba’s own, Madison Thomas, an alumnus of the festival, who has screened short films here in her early career, to her first feature film. Now, she is an in-demand director of film and television, and we are so proud to call her one of our own. Buffy Ste. Marie: Carry It On, is a fantastic look at the life and career of this Canadian Icon! Packed with music and appearances by music legends, this movie is sure to have the beach ROCKIN’!

Awards are a small way to recognize the tremendous work done by individuals in our community. Outside of our film awards, which will be presented at the festival, GIFF has two honorary awards that we present. The Jack Clements “Livin’ the Dream Award is presented to someone in the Manitoba Film Industry who has made a significant impact in our Province. The award is named after Jack Clements, who was one of the pioneers of modern film production in Manitoba. Jack had an indominable spirit, and when asked how his day was going, regardless the situation, he would reply with “Livin the dream”, showing his gratitude for working in “show business”. The recipient this year at our Awards Reception on Saturday, July 29th, is someone who was very close to Jack and has the same persistently positive attitude and has certainly made an impact on the industry in Manitoba.

Phyllis Laing is one of Winnipeg’s best known and longest established Producers, starting Buffalo Gal Pictures in 1994 and had worked with Jack on many projects. The list of credits to her name is as impressive as it is extensive. Joining forces with a variety of producing partners, Phyllis has ensured that Buffalo Gal Pictures has been at the forefront of quality Canadian production for over three decades, executive producing feature films such as MY WINNIPEG (2012) and FLAG DAY (2021), as well as CTV series THE SPENCER SISTERS (2023). Phyllis’s vision of inclusivity in film and television extends to Buffalo Gal’s sister company Kistikan Pictures, having produced the feature film THROUGH BLACK SPRUCE (2019) and the CTV Comedy series ACTING GOOD (2022), now in its second season.

We are proud to be honouring Phyllis at this year’s festival, fitting as it will be the final year for the award.

This year, we are honoured to be hosting the amazing, Elizabeth Klinck and awarding her with the Alda. The Alda Award is the festival’s highest honour and goes to an individual who has made a significant contribution to the world of film and filmmaking. Elizabeth has gone on to have a prestigious career as a producer, researcher and clearance specialist on hundreds of international documentary films that have garnered BAFTA, Emmy, FOCAL, Canadian Screen Awards, Peabody, and Oscar awards.

Elizabeth will be participating in three discussions over the course of the festival:

  1. Elizabeth will present and talk about one of the most recent documentaries that she researched, the award winning, Werner Herzog: Radical Dreamer. This event is sponsored by On Screen Manitoba.
  2. She will also provide a workshop on clearances and copyright for films, called “You See it, You Hear it, Let’s Clear it”, sponsored by Film Training Manitoba and DOC Manitoba.
  3. And finally, she will be joined by our own Kevin Nikkel and Aaron Zeghers in a discussion about “What to do with your old home movies”. I know people have a few of those collecting dust. You will be amazed and delighted at how creative people are bringing new life into those old tapes and film reels.

These events are sure to be engaging and motivating. Elizabeth is a wonderful speaker, and we are fortunate to have her join us in Gimli this summer.

Finally, the RBC $10,000 Pitch Competition is returning for its 12th iteration of this fabulous event. The competition has become one of the most important funding opportunities for emerging filmmakers and the experience of pitching their idea to a live audience is unquestionably unique and beneficial to their careers. RBC’s support of this emerging artists is greatly appreciated by the artistic community, and we are proud to tell you about the panel of judges for this year’s event:

Sarah Simpson-Yellowquill is an Indigenous filmmaker and the Program Manager at the National Screen Institute. She has served as the mentor for the winning filmmaker of the competition for the last two years.

Sarah will be joined by Elizabeth Klinck and Guy Maddin to round out the panel of three judges for the pitch competition.

We look forward to seeing you in Gimli this summer and watching some fantastic films!

Alan Wong

Executive Director

Gimli International Film Festival