In many ways, Guy Maddin has put Winnipeg on the map when it comes to cinema.
On Saturday night, the award-winning filmmaker will be recognized at the Gimli Film Festival with its annual Alda award (the word Alda means ‘wave’ in Icelandic), celebrating his overall career.
Gimli holds a special place in Maddin’s heart and oeuvre.
The lifelong Winnipegger has been travelling to the town his whole life, and says he once dreamed of having a film festival there, back when he used to project his films on a sheet cast over his neighbour’s volleyball net.
“It’s I guess probably the culmination of some dream I didn’t realize I was having all these years ago,” he said of the award.
His first feature film, Tales from the Gimli Hospital, was also set there, and delves into the town’s Icelandic culture and mythology.
Icelandic-Canadian on his mother’s side, Maddin said going to Gimli was like “going to the capital of New Iceland.”
“So I, too, feel connected with its fairly brief past,” he said.
“Which is why I made my first feature film about Gimli, because it was a way of mythologizing on film a past that was rapidly being forgotten.”
Though often told he should relocate to bigger, perhaps brighter, cities like Toronto, New York, or Los Angeles, Maddin has stayed rooted in Winnipeg throughout his career and made the city the backdrop to many of his films.
This includes My Winnipeg, a documentary-style film about his hometown that dances between fact and fiction.
“This city… for the longest time I would call it a love/hate relationship,” he said.
“And there are certainly times when I’m tired of it. Probably every Winnipegger listening would understand that feeling. I’m no different than any other.”
“But I’m finally at the point in my career where I get to go to some film festivals and travel to other universities to teach film and things like that. And I’m really lucky, I get a nice mixture of staying in Winnipeg and leaving now and then.”
Water issues won’t affect festival plans, say organizers
Maddin will receive his Alda during the festival’s awards reception Saturday night at Johnson Hall.
The festival kicked off Wednesday and wraps up Sunday night.
Organizers of the annual festival say a sewage spill into nearby Lake Winnipeg won’t affect their plans.
Gimli beach-goers are being warned to stay out of the water after raw sewage poured into Lake Winnipeg last Wednesday.
Janis Johnson, the festival’s chairperson, said the spill is unfortunate but that it’s not having any impact on the festival.
Most films are at indoor theatres, or viewed from the beach at night, she said.
“We put it offshore in the lake every year and you sit on the beach and no one goes in the water, and never has when you’re watching the films,” she said.
The film festival is screening 111 films this year.
Last year, 11,000 people attended.