join me for a diversion to the Gimli Film Fest

As the largest rural film festival in Canada, the Gimli International Film Festival (GIFF) is definitely worth a look. Initially known as the Gimli Film Fest, the event celebrates its 23rd year in 2023 from July 26-30.

The free RBC Sunset Screenings at the Gimli International Film Festival offer a memorable experience of watching one of your favourite movies on Gimli Beach from the comfort of a low lawn chair or blanket with your friends. See you there! Photo courtesy of the GIFF.
My cousin and I enjoyed taking in the beach screening of the Phantom of the Paradise on Gimli Beach at the 2018 Gimli Film Fest. With the backdrop of a full moon, it was magical! Photo Credit: Patricia Barrett, Express Weekly News.

The in-person 2019 and 2020 GIFF were completely cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Film buffs were able to take in 100 films virtually in the 2021 version of the festival as COVID continued to be a factor. But coming back in 2022 with a renewed enthusiasm and an executive team led by new artistic director Alan Wong, the festival expanded the reach of its name from Gimli Film Fest to the Gimli International Film Festival– a reflection of the truly global nature and broad scope of its offerings.   

For a full Festival pass priced at $119 you can take in the standard festival events. The Super Pass for $179 offers many more perks. And the Online Pass at $49 offers opportunities for those who can’t make it to Gimli. This is a great way to access a palette of world films from the comfort of your own home at a very reasonable cost. There are also various in-person day passes for those who want to take in everything they can on one single day.

The full repertoire of GIFF offers a collection of obscure, eclectic, thought-provoking, and enticing short films, documentaries, and feature films from Canada and around the world.

In the past, I’ve been privileged to attend the Opening Reception in celebration of the festival. I’ve also enjoyed several beach screenings, including the Weakerthans documentary and The cult favourite Phantom of the Paradise.

A few years ago, I attended the afternoon screening of a documentary on El Bulli, said by many to be the world’s best restaurant at that time. I missed the opportunity to visit this landmark eating establishment when I was in Spain as it was too far from Barcelona to make it work for our itinerary, but I really enjoyed the insightful documentary.

Where or how else would you be able to get inside the head of a master 3-star chef like Ferran Adria? I’m sure all mouths in the room were watering as we watched a film documenting this culinary mastermind’s sources of inspiration.

In a truly unique beach setting, nightly feature films at the Gimli International Film Festival are shown on a giant screen suspended above the waters of Lake Winnipeg. This year there will be shorts and clips beginning at 9 pm, with the feature film beginning at dusk (around 10 pm.)

There are several indoor venues in addition to the free RBC Sunset Screenings where you can watch classic feature films such as Cast Away, Mama Mia, Life of Pi and 9 to 5 right on Gimli Beach. The photo above shows the frame for the 36-foot (11-metre) wide screen mounted in the water just off the shores of Gimli Beach, where you can watch the film of the evening from the comfort of a low beach chair, or by stretching out on a blanket.

The GIFF offers something to please any film buff. Check the website or Gimli International Film Festival Facebook page for the complete program and festival updates. They also have an Instagram page.

I’d love to hear your best GIFF memories, or any experiences you may have had at other film festivals around the world. Hope to see you in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, soon for the film fest, the Icelandic Festival, or one of the other great events you’ll find in this culturally diverse community of less than 7,000 permanent residents.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I researched and wrote Volume I of Chocolatour that won a Readers' favourite Award in 2014. Always enjoy experiencing new destinations and flavours.

23 Responses

  1. Rajmuk says:

    Your blog post about the Gimli Film Fest was a delightful and immersive read! I loved how you painted a vivid picture of the festival atmosphere, the beautiful lakeside setting, and the diverse selection of films. It’s clear that you have a true passion for film and storytelling, and your reviews and recommendations are insightful and thought-provoking. Your writing is engaging and captures the excitement and energy of the festival. I appreciated the helpful tips you provided for attendees and the personal anecdotes that brought your experience to life. Thank you for taking us on a virtual tour of the Gimli Film Fest and inspiring us to explore the world of cinema!

  2. It was great to see a resurgence of energy at the 2022 Gimli International Film Festival. Can’t wait for 2023!
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…no wonder I love turtles so much!My Profile

  3. Bola says:

    This is a lovely photo of you and your cousin. The afternoon screening of a documentary on El Bulli sounds like an unforgettable experience.

    I’m looking forward to an upcoming film festival over here in the UK.

  4. What fun to offer an online version during this unusual year! Sounds wonderful!

    • You should check it out RoseMary! I’m sure you’d find something that would attract you in the eclectic offerings of the Gimli Film Fest. And then maybe come in person next year. I live just 20 minutes from there! 🙂

  5. Beverly says:

    I enjoyed watching a movie while seated on my chair in front of the huge screen on the shore at Gimli. You have reminded me of how enjoyable it was.

    • Yes, we’ll have to miss out on the beach movies this year at GFF. But I’m going to check out the schedule & see what I want to watch online. They always have some unique & eclectic offerings.

  6. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the landscape of Manitoba’s myriad of summer festivals. I’m so glad that festivals like the Gimli Film Fest have found a way to do things virtually.

  7. Sharcasm says:

    Hi Doreen,

    Thanks for checking my blog and what a great blog you have. This festival sounds great and I also loved the one about Amsterdam. I have actually never been to Sucre so I’ll have to check that one out.



  8. Marianna says:

    I have pleasant memories of Gimli!

    I hope the mosquitoes found another venue to attend! 🙂

    • Yes, Marianna, Gimli is great! The Icelandic Festival is happening this wkend. Great stuff all summer long.

      And there are NO mosquitoes! We’ve had a very hot July, so there haven’t been any mosquitoes for a couple of weeks. It’s been an amazing summer. Hope you are faring as well.

  9. Update on El Bulli: I really enjoyed the documentary, and was pleased to see it was a sell-out. Very interesting film. It was amazing to see the approach taken by eccentric chef owner, Ferran Adria, and his creative team. Alas, none of us will get the chance to try the infamous restaurant as it has now closed and will open in another format in 2014 under the direction of a Foundation. More on that at:

  10. I’m trying to envision Montreal floating above Lake Winnipeg. LOL. Too bad it was cancelled. :o( It would have been quite an experience!

    • Indeed, Elizabeth! The Gimli Film Fest is really quite the event! Perhaps you can plan to take it in next year! We’d love to welcome you to Manitoba, and I only live 20 minutes from Gimli! Cheers!

  11. Kathe Lieber says:

    I really liked Barney’s Version, and had fun spotting some Montreal locales. Like many others, I had mixed feelings about the location of the flashbacks being changed from Paris to Rome, but in general, I think it worked.

    When a movie is made of a book I loved, it’s always a bit of a mixed blessing. You can pick a million holes in the changes that are inevitably made to turn a book into a movie. I was really surprised that the only Oscar nomination Barney’s Version got was for makeup, though. I thought Paul Giamatti was a good choice to play Barney.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the movie, Kathe. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Barney’s Version last night as the beach screening at the GFF was cancelled due to high winds. Our weather in MB is psychotic! We had record-breaking highs this week followed by a cold front moving in and making it feel like fall! Hopefully, Sunday will be better.

      I do hope to see Barney’s Version at some point as Paul G is indeed a fine actor. Loved him in Sideways!

      Hope you’ll join us here again when we talk about Montreal in the next post. Cheers!

  12. Sandy Crawley says:

    Sounds great, wish I could attend. Way back in the 20th Century when I served as president of ACTA I was a regular attendee of TIFF (The Toronto Intern’l FF) but I found that I had too many meetings and policy sessions to attend to allow me to see more than a handful of films. The same pattern emerged wile I was an official at HotDocs as then exec.director of the Documentary Organization of Canada. Now as Exec. Dir. of PWAC I find that I can never read as much as I’d like to. As they say, the cobbler’s children never have shoes…

    • Well, Sandy, you’ll just have to plan a vacation to the beautiful lakeside community of Gimli! Next summer, come out for a week and explore the Interlake! There are so many amazing festivals going on in Manitoba during the summer. And there will be a free dinner in Matlock in it for you!

  13. HI Doreen,

    Thanks for getting the word out about the Festival. Tonight, the Illusionist plays on the beach at 10 pm. This animated features is by the creators of The Triplets of Belleville, one of my favourite movies of all time. Can’t wait to see it while sitting on a beach outside (in the hopefully slightly cooler weather.) Also, on Thursday night, it’s Bill Cunningham New York, a doc about a New York photographer who’s been shooting street fashion for roughly 60 years. It’s absolutely wonderful and gives a little look into the nature of one man’s passion for fashion.

    Ciao for now!


  14. Margaret Fehr says:

    I look forward to joining you on the Gimli beachfront this Friday to take in Barney’s Version.
    I love the audacity of an event like the GFF for blending the best of the geographical features of Gimli along with the brilliance of a movie screen that’s set in the water. It’s so wonderfully absurd and brings people together in a way that makes for uniquely joyful memories.
    While not a film event, last summer’s Barge Festival at the Forks last August was similarly outrageous with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Chic Gamine and Sierra Noble presenting their talents on a huge barge at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers to the evening crowd assembled on the river docks. Meanwhile, motor boats gently passed by along with the occasional canoe and a passenger train chugged by overhead on the trestle leading to Union Station. It was an amazing event and one that will stay with me forever.
    It was awesome and it sounds like GFF has the same kinds of ingredients to fabricate a great memory! So see you on the Beach this Friday.

    • Thanks for your comment, Margaret.

      Yes, it is truly a fun experience so sit on a lawn chair (or blanket) beneath the stars and watch a movie outdoors on the beach. Last year, it was a clear, warm night when I was there, and practically no bugs. Let’s hope we’re as lucky this year.

      It’s funny you should mention the Barge Festival! I have it marked on my calendar for Friday, Aug 19th at 8 pm at The Forks. Hope to see you there! We are so fortunate to have so many amazing outdoor happenings in Manitoba in the summer.

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