Reaching out, opening doors, and bussing in

Arts, Culture & Heritage

Outreach and inclusion at the Gimli International Film Festival

A crowd sits on a beach in front of a movie screen set against Lake Winnipeg on a dark evening, holding their phone flashlights into the air.
An outdoor screening at the Gimli International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Doug Little

Every summer, thousands descend on the sleepy lakefront town of Gimli, and every July, it also bustles with movie goers, taking in the Gimli International Film Festival (GIFF), Manitoba’s largest film fest. During the past few years, the festival has welcomed youth and underserved communities, thanks to GIFF’s Community Outreach and Inclusion Program, funded by The Winnipeg Foundation. 

Partnering with arts organizations and community-based agencies, GIFF’s Outreach and Inclusion Program waives festival fees on a first come first served basis to those who identify and are recognized as a member of an underserved community. “Being in Gimli means only a certain demographic of people comes to enjoy the festival and we wanted to reach out to people who have never experienced the festival before,” says Alan Wong, Festival Director for GIFF. “Our programing at the festival is diverse being an international film festival but our audiences have not been. Here’s an opportunity to open to that demographic.” 

The Young Film Makers Program, another component of the outreach and inclusion initiative, works with teachers at established high school film and production programs, to encourage film-making among students, with an invitation to screen and present at GIFF. “The future of the festival depends on young people and developing industry side engagement for young people – for them to develop and foster non-Netflix movie perspectives is important,” says Wong. Young filmmakers participate in their film’s screening, explore the town, and partake in festival events, as part of the program. 

Participants of the two programs are offered a shuttle service, to remove the additional barrier of transportation to the festival. And in 2023, the service will also be an option for volunteers, filmmakers, and the public. “Gimli in the summertime gets very busy with traffic. The shuttle reduces traffic on the highway and is a more environmentally friendly option,” says Wong. This is the second year the shuttle is in operation and the first year it will be offered to the public. “We have capacity and we found that there is a demand.” 

Last year was challenging for the festival, at the tail end of the pandemic, but festival organizers are excited about the films coming to GIFF 2023 and look forward to seeing you there! 

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