As with most other events during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 11th annual Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival is different this year.
The event, which runs Feb. 14-28, is normally held at the North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church. This year, the festival — which aims to "encourage, challenge and inspire people to a greater understanding of the human journey" — is moving online (www.winnipegfilmfestival.com).
"It makes me wonder what will happen," organizer Paul Boge said of the uncertainty of attendance figures.
At the same time, it offers new opportunities.
"People can tune in any time and watch any time," he said, noting the festival will run for two weeks this year, not six days, as in the past. "Now people don’t have to show up in person at specific times to watch a film."
It also will extend its reach to people outside of Winnipeg. Boge said it also may be more welcoming for "those who might be reluctant to attend an event at a church."
The festival arrives at the perfect time — when so many people are feeling discouraged and disheartened amid the pandemic, he said.
"I would argue that now is the best time to have cool, clean, compelling films that will encourage you and inspire you in your life," Boge said.
"We miss connecting with others, getting together. Since we can’t do that, the next best way to connect is through stories. They can connect us with others and inspire us in our faith."
Among the 50 films being offered this year is Justified Journey, a documentary that follows a Wisconsin man as he discovers his heritage within America’s still-unresolved slave history amid the wider struggle for black equality and equity.
Life Jacket tells the stories of refugees stranded in a camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, describing their struggle for basic human rights and better living conditions and education.
Through Mr. Emancipation, viewers will learn about Walter Perry, a Canadian who organized the largest U.S. Emancipation Day celebration — in Windsor, Ont., from 1936-67.
Other films include Against the Tide, a documentary about the Christian faith standing up against atheism; Handmade in Bangladesh, which tells the stories of average working people who live in a rich cultural heritage of artisan handicraft and creativity; I am a Mennonite, about who Mennonites are and what they believe; The Science Fiction Makers, about Christian science fiction; and The Great Disconnect, which details the impact of social media on our lives.
Returning to the festival is Volendam: a Refugee Story, a locally produced film about the Mennonite exodus from Europe after the Second World War.
The festival will also feature pre-recorded interviews with filmmakers.
Passes to the Real to Reel film festival are $10 for unlimited viewings.
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.