PERHAPS the perfect embodiment of this year’s Gimli Film Festival is its last screening on the beach.
In the festival program, it’s titled Dark Side of the Rainbow. It is the celebrated mash-up of The Wizard of Oz coupled with an eerily appropriate soundtrack consisting of Pink Floyd’s exercise in ’70s psychedelia Dark Side of the Moon.
It’s a nice blend of pop and esoterica representative of GFF. The fest has always struck a blend between crowd-pleasers (usually at the free nightly beach screenings) and more challenging art films, in addition to a component of industry sessions and filmmaker-friendly seminars.
Taking over as programmer this year is Aaron Zeghers, himself an underground filmmaker with a history of programming as the founder of the Open City Film Collective and the Winnipeg Underground Film Festival.
Zeghers says the festival has gone through some changes, but film fans can expect even more choices than usual in 2014. For example, if you don’t feel like seeing, say, A River Runs Through It at the beach screening on Thursday night, you might catch the Canucksploitation comedy WolfCop at the Gimli Theatre or the celebrated Canadian doc Watermark at either the Lady of the Lake or Aspire theatres.
"We’ve created a lot of screenings intended as an alternative to the beach screenings," Zeghers says.
While he may describe himself as an underground filmmaker, Zeghers has been a fan of the sun-soaked Lake Winnipeg venue since he screened his first film there years ago.
"It’s such an ideal location for a film festival," he says. "You can walk everywhere and it’s a beautiful setting."
A large component of this year’s offerings are international art films that have already played in Winnipeg, such as Finding Vivian Maier, Tim’s Vermeer and Gloria, and Canadian films including Special Ed , Empire of Dirt and Gabrielle.
Zeghers says the fest does serve the Gimli and Interlake community with films that aren’t as readily accessible to them.
This year, they go a step further with a new event at the Gimli Pavilion, Movie Music and a Meal (Thursday at 4 p.m.) The CBC documentary Oli’s Gift, a film about legendary Gimli builder and violin maker Oli Thorsteinson, will be screened. The $20 admission includes a barbecue and live music entertainment. "It’s an all-night affair geared towards local residents," Zeghers says.