Reel Pride Film Festival celebrates 34 years of bridging Manitoba’s LGBTTQ* community  

Photo: Jesson Downie.

By Michelle Karlenzig

The Winnipeg Reel Pride Film Festival wrapped up this past Sunday at the Gas Station Theater.

The annual six-day event held by The Winnipeg Gay and Lesbian Film Society Inc. featured 12 films from around the world, all relating to the LGBTTQ* community.

Hayley Charney has been attending the event for two years and says Reel Pride supports unique opportunities to engage artistic work from beyond Manitoba.

“This event is so great because it elevates Manitoba’s diversity but also engages that community with artistic work from beyond the province,” Charney says.

Reel Pride celebrated its 34th year, making it the longest-running Canadian LGBTTQ* film festival.

Volunteers hand out popcorn and drinks at the sponsored event for the Reel Pride Film Festival on Saturday, Oct. 19. The Gas Station Theater hosted the six-day event that celebrated its 3th year as a film festival. / Jesson Downie.

The event kicked off at Little Brown Jug Brewery on Thursday Oct. 10, where the event hosted the top international LGBTTQ* commercials of 2019.

Director Tommy Villafranca flew to Winnipeg from Los Angeles, California on Thursday Oct. 17 to introduce his film From Zero to I Love You. The executive director came at his own expense. The US romance film follows a young man who has a history of getting involved with married men.

Royal Bank of Canada, a sponsor of Reel Pride for nine years, hosted a gala event on the last night of the festival. RBC introduced the feature film The Happy Prince directed by Rupert Everett. The film has been nominated for European Film of the Year and follows famous playwright Oscar Wildes’ last months in exile for being homosexual.

During the week Reel Pride also hosted the Annual Canadian Short Film Competition which featured six Canadian-directed short films.

With online streaming services becoming more popular, the Reel Pride committee says the board has a small window to choose films that haven’t gone to theaters or streaming sites.

Reel Pride president Barb Burkowski, introduces Executive Director Tommy Villafranca who flew from Los Angeles, California to announce the film “From Zero to I Love You”./ Jesson Downie.

David Wyatt, a Reel Pride board member since 1991, says that even with streaming sites and online downloading, the film festival holds deeper value than just watching a movie.

“It’s about bringing people together and the bridges built between film and the LGBTTQ* community in Manitoba,” Wyatt says.

“That’s something Netflix cannot bring to the table.”

The board hopes to continue connecting the community through LGBTTQ* film and focus on including more Indigenous actors and filmmakers to the festival.