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Celluloid and comedy

Shärt International Comedy Film Fest set for April 6 at Sturgeon Heights CC

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David Rabsch’s first comedy memory is of watching the local CBC kids show, Switchback, that featured skits and cartoons.

"Pretty sure I remember writing and sending in a bunch of jokes for the ‘Joke of the Week’ with no success," says Rabsch, who works for the provincial government.

The St. James resident will be looking to make some new comedy memories this spring as he helps launch the Shärt International Comedy Film Festival on April 6, 2013 at the Sturgeon Heights Community Centre.

Rabsch has been organizing the festival with long-time friend, and filmmaker, Andrew Wall and the festival’s namesake, Ulysses W. Shärt.

 The idea, says Wall, came up over drinks one day, at the Fox and Hounds Tavern on Portage Avenue, when they agreed there was a huge comedy film hole in the city that needed to be filled.

"Many of the past film festivals in town, which usually screened comedy short films at some point, have somewhat disappeared," says Wall, who works at Farpoint Films.

"Not only did local comedy filmmakers not have a place to screen their films, but local audiences didn’t have a place to go and laugh. Eventually we pulled the pin (that’s a metaphor for something eventually blowing up in our faces) and started telling the waitress that we started a comedy film festival."

For Wall, who has twice been invited to the Gangrene Short Comedy Film Festival in Utah for his own short films, this is a big deal for Winnipeg.

"This is bigger than when we received streetcar service in 1903. We’ll be known for more than just mounting fighter planes at the sides of our streets in St James from now on," says Wall.

"I think we’re seeing a renaissance of comedy in Winnipeg. Just look at the stand-up scene — many more young comics now than there was 10 years ago. A new generation looking to laugh and we’re helping them to do that by offering a night of comedy films."

The day will also feature workshops, live comedy and of course, short comedy films. There will also be a complimentary meat basket for all official Shärt directors.

When asked what will impress the judges, Rabsch says anything goes.

"Our philosophy is make us laugh!"

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2013. For more information visit www.shartfilmfestival.com.

Trevor Suffield is a community correspondent for St. James-Assiniboia. You can contact him at trevorsuffield@gmail.com.

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