Changes at Gimli Film Fest
April 4, 2013
**Addendum, April 15, 2013 : As a reaction to a filmmaker outcry regarding the issues discussed in the article below, the Gimli Film Fest and the NSI have opened up a “special call” for local films. For more on this announcement, please see this Cineflyer article.
Interested Manitoban filmmakers can submit their films on NSI’s website before May 15th, with the option to also submit to NSI’s Online Film Fest, or not.
For the first time in it’s history, Gimli Film Fest will be closing it’s short film open call.
The festival has announced on their website that the National Screen Institute will instead be programming the short film component of their festival, culling exclusively from the films already available on NSI’s Online Short Film Festival.
This means that local filmmakers are blocked out of the festival, unless they successfully submit their films to NSI’s Online Film Festival. Sadly, the deadline for local filmmakers to do so has already expired for the 2013 festival.
This presents a number of problems for local filmmakers who don’t want their films online, added to the fact that neither Gimli Film Fest nor NSI pay filmmakers for the exhibition of their art. Also a source of contention is the fact that Gimli’s new head programmer (in 2012) is Joy Loewen, the former NSI Drama Prize program manager.
Many local filmmakers are also rightly worried that NSI’s Online Film Fest consists mainly of narrative-centric films that are mostly over two years old. I would bet that NSI will be hard-up to find a Manitoban film in their roster that hasn’t already screened at Gimli in previous years.
In the past, Gimli has been the best Manitoban film festival for local filmmakers of ANY genre to get a screening. It was a really fantastic variety, lovingly assembled by programmer Matthew Etches.
Gimli was – in fact – the festival that I first witnessed my own work upon the screen, and was a great stepping stone for many local emerging filmmakers. But in recent years, I have been nervously witnessing a festival steadily sloping towards a family-friendly, politically correct, festival for vacationing cottagers.
And, given the festival’s location, perhaps this is not a bad choice after all. But for filmmakers and film buffs in Manitoba, it certainly leaves a lingering thirst that Blue Hawii and Jaws 2 just can’t quite quench.
Local filmmaker Stéphane Oystryk’s said this about the recent changes to the short film programming:
“It seems to me that short film programs are the heart and soul of film festivals. They’re an opportunity to showcase up and coming talent as well as give a concise glimpse of where cinema might be headed in the future and what kinds of ideas are floating around out there. When a festival refuses to program their own short film programs and instead relies on another festival’s selections, they forfeit the chance to really define themselves as a festival and offer their audience something special and unique. Shorts are where all the fun is. At least in my opinion.”
“This turn by the Gimli Film Festival SMACKS of laziness,” said another Winnipeg filmmaker, Damien Ferland. “To rely on another organization to provide preselected films shows the indifference of the programmers. The diverse regional, national and international short film programming was something that worked well. There is a lot of potential that the Gimli Film Festival has but it’s sometimes plagued with some very bad decision making.”
There has been little reaction from the Gimli Film Festival over criticism of their recent changes, although they did remove the portion of their website that explained their engagement with NSI. I personally wrote Gimli chair and founder, Conservative Senator Janis Johnson, who replied “Thank you for your email re the GFF short film programming changes. You have made some good points but times change and with it film festivals.”
Johnson also recommended I contact Cheryl Ashton, the festival’s director, from whom I received no response.
Local filmmaker Shelaugh Carter won best Manitoba Short Film at the Gimli Film Fest in 2011 with her film One Night. She was a fan of the festival’s past short film programming, and wonders if the changes are a sign of budget constraints.
“[I] loved how they programmed before ( regardless if my films were chosen!!) I saw very creative films from International filmmakers – a wide range in approach ….. curating thru one festival to get to another seems to be happening across Canada…. I’m wondering if it is non profit choice re: tightening budgets and trying to survive,” she wrote via email.