Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Gimli Film Fest 2019
by Festival Director Aaron Zeghers
Back in 2012, I penned this article for my now-defunct cinema-arts blog, and in it I covered “everything you always wanted to know” about GFF 2012. Little did I know that just two short years later I would be programming for GFF – the Festival of Festivals (of Manitoba)!
Like many others back then, I believed in the supreme potential of the Gimli Film Fest to rival other great Canadian Film Fests, and today I believe in it more than ever. Our team has been carefully crafting an incredible slate of programming over the past year, and – now – I get to tell you all about it.
PART 1 | GUESTS!
Booking our guests nearly gave me a coronary this year, but it all turned out to be so incredibly worth it! Attending this year’s Festival we have two brazen American documentary filmmakers: Penny Lane (Hail Satan?) and Liza Mandelup (Jawline). Both of these women premiered their films at Sundance 2019, and both will be presenting Masterclasses as part of GFF 2019! Actress Wendy Crewson will also be in attendance, as the winner of the Gimli Film Festival’s Alda Award, an achievement award that honours creative cinematic talents from Canada and the circumpolar nations.
Also attending will be Canadians filmmakers Jamie Kastner and producer Laura Baron Kastner (There Are No Fakes) and Guillaume Vallée (The last day of the luna moth), along with live expanded cinema performances from Bea Haut (UK), Jael Jacobo + Ezequiel Guido (Mexico City) and Chad Munson + Lindsey Rewuski (Saskatoon). And of course last but certainly not least we have an always-strong contingent of Manitoba filmmaking talent, including Jesse Green & Vanda Fleury-Green (Urban Eclipse: Rising Tides of Kekekoziibii (Shoal Lake 40)) and Danielle Sturk with her HotDocs 2019 hit El Toro!
Below are some re-caps on some of this year’s special guests who will be presenting Masterclasses during GFF 2019…
Liza Mandelup is one of America’s foremost up-and-coming filmmakers, and GFF is humbled to present the Canadian Premiere of her Sundance 2019 award-winning film Jawline. Let me repeat this… Liza won a Special Jury Award at Sundance this past January, and the very first time this acclaimed film will play ANYWHERE in Canada, will be in Gimli, Manitoba – on the Opening Night of the Gimli Film Festival!
Jawline is a post-millennial portrait of the American dream, set in rural Tennessee and centered around the charismatic if not naïve 16-year-old Austyn, who dreams of escaping his dead-end town through social media fame. The film follows him as he spreads his message of positivity to young girls that follow his “boy broadcasts”, goes to in-person meet and greets at the mall, and even goes on “tour” (think lip syncing pop songs to 13-year-olds). The film expounds to explore the greater economy surrounding this burgeoning industry – one that seemingly preys on young women and their insecurities. What is the cost of fame in the 21st Century? And who looses?
Liza will also be on hand to present a Masterclass Q&A moderated by producer Laura Michalchyshyn. The Masterclass will focus on a variety Mandelup’s creative and commercial projects over the years and is part of GFF’s Future is Female* Mentorship Program, but also open to the general public!
It will come as no surprise to my friends and colleagues that I am unspeakably excited to be bringing Penny Lane to Gimli to present her runaway Sundance hit Hail Satan? Penny is easily one of my favourite filmmakers working today. She has the knack for finding complex and layered stories, an unforgettable and diverse body of work (check out NUTS!! which was a GFF hit in 2016), and she is fiercely independent – a driving force of nouveau documentary filmmaking!
This is all blatantly evident in her new film Hail Satan? which explores with tact, humility and poise a subject that most documentary filmmakers would write off as an obscure or comedic news story. In Hail Satan?, Penny explores the ideologies and individuals behind The Satanic Temple, which is an organization that turns out to be less of a blood-drinking cult (well, a little less) and more of a political movement. With unfettered access and bucketloads of understanding, Hail Satan? will provoke some important ideas and conversations at this year’s Gimli Film Fest.
And if you are a filmmaker, there is in my opinion no more important event to attend than Penny Lane’s Masterclass: Strategies of Appropriation, than for anything else at this year’s Festival! Full disclosure, I am – like Penny – an off and on again found footage filmmaker. But for any filmmaker, this will undoubtedly be a watershed experience as Penny explores and explains her theories and strategies when it comes to working with appropriated images. “We live in a world full of images – so full it can seem rather stupid to add even more to the deluge,” says Penny. So come and learn from the best how to navigate the ethical and aesthetic conundrums that come with working with found footage.
Hailing from Arborg, Manitoba – only a few minutes drive from Gimli – maverick filmmaker & animator Mike Maryniuk will be attending the Gimli Film Festival with a special new Director’s Cut of his debut feature film The Goose. Mike is one of Winnipeg’s most celebrated and beloved filmmakers, and his work embodies the frenetic, DIY, and maximalist filmmaking that has given Winnipeg the international reputation as the outsider-experimental-cinema capital of Canada.
In The Goose, Mike crafts a surreal and absurdist adventure film full of blistering stop-motion animation, crafty hijinks and psychedelic sequences. While these elements will dazzle your senses, they won’t overshadow a more thoughtful narrative that touches on the distress of (never) leaving your small hometown, and the debate around assisted suicide. It’s an incredible film full of Manitoba-isms and local geography, and you don’t want to miss it.
Mike will also be on hand to present a Super 8 Filmmaking Workshop with the cinematographer of The Goose, Josh Marr on the Friday of the Festival. If you’re planning to take part in this year’s One Take Super 8, this is your one-stop-shop to get educated from some of the best!
GFF is so happy to welcome back filmmaker Shelagh Carter, whose work we have been perennially excited to support for many years in the past. Last year Shelagh Carter won GFF’s inaugural Best Manitoba Filmmaker Award (sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada) for her feature film Before Anything You Say, and she is back again for 2019 with another brand new feature film Into Invisible Light. On a more personal note, I actually had the pleasure of working with Shelagh when she was making her first feature film Passionflower, and it has been such a delight to be able to watch her career blossom in recent years, with her films screening and winning awards around the world.
Into Invisible Light is a story of resillience and rebirth of the film’s protagonist Helena. After her husband passes, Helena finds herself lost in depression and melancholy. But ultimately this is a beautiful and poetic story of rebirth, as Helena discovers the revitalizing power of art. The film has had an incredible track record, winning multiple awards including the Platinum Remi Award in the theatrical feature film category at Worldfest Houston. Actress Jennifer Dale also picked up awards for her incredible performance in the film at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival in Toronto and at Worldfest Houston.
For more on this film, Mike’s film and Danielle Sturk’s El Toro, please check out the expertly-crafted writings of Winnipeg Film Group Director Greg Kylmkiw in his latest WFG Newsletter.