WASAGAMING — The inaugural Riding Mountain National Park Film Festival wrapped up this summer with a sold-out screening of "Tailwinds: Prairie Harvest," a documentary by festival director Steve Langston celebrating his passion for sustainable tourism, culinary adventure and the environment.
Over the course of the festival, film enthusiasts were able to view eight documentaries that explored these themes as well as meet the filmmakers and ask them questions about their work.
After attending film festivals in Gimli and Banff over the last year, Langston, an enterprising young filmmaker and owner of Dirty T Shirt Productions, realized that Wasagaming, the community where he spends his summers, needed its own film festival.
As a result of both his passion for innovative filmmaking and his roots in the Westman area, Langston started the Riding Mountain National Park Film Festival.
"The festival totally exceeded my expectations," he said. "It was great to meet a bunch of new people who were passionate about documentaries and the park."
The festival began with a couple of two-day digital media camps for youth sponsored by Catalyst Credit Union. One was held in Dauphin, the other in Wasagaming.
During the camp, 18 kids aged 10 to 18 learned the basics of filmmaking from storytelling, camera operation, audio, lighting and editing. Their final project was to create their own short film about learning to make documentaries which were screened for friends and family on the final evening of each camp.
For the second phase of the festival, eight Canadian documentaries were shown at the Visitor Centre theatre in Riding Mountain National Park.
"Riding Mountain National Park is proud to be a partner in the inaugural RMNP Film Festival," said Richard Dupuis, acting park superintendent.
"It was great to see how this event engaged with youth via digital media workshops. From the park’s perspective, the subject matter — environmental protection, adventure travel, Canadiana, and other local interests — fits well with the priorities that are important in Parks Canada’s work to protect and present Canada’s special places.
"We want to continue working with partners like the film festival to make it easier for events such as these to become a reality for our visitors and neighbours."
The finale of the festival was the screening of "Tailwinds: Prairie Harvest," Langston’s documentary chronicling a 1,200-kilometre bike tour that he and three friends made around Manitoba last fall eating nothing but Manitoba-grown foods.
Langston wanted something special for the final night of the festival so he asked Wes Huyghe from Littlepath Farms, who was featured in the film "To Make a Farm," to supply many of the ingredients that Foxtail Cafe owner and chef, Tyler Kaktins, transformed into a feast of Manitoba’s bounty that was enjoyed by a full house of hungry film enthusiasts.
Langston, Kaktins and Huyghe were on hand to enjoy the feast and talk about their respective passions with the happy diners.
"Dinner and a movie was a huge success," Langston said. "Tyler, Wes and myself all came together and brought different skills and products to the table. The result was a memorable evening that inspired people to eat and live locally."
Many organizations and businesses stepped up to help get the festival off the ground.
Friends of RMNP, a not-for-profit organization that promotes awareness and appreciation of the park, helped with ticketing and local logistics. Businesses also recognized the strength of the local arts community and several of them helped to sponsor the festival and the digital media camps.
"Congratulations to Steve on pulling this festival together," said George Hartlen, CAO of Friends of RMNP. "Everyone who took in the movies over the weekend thoroughly enjoyed the event and thought the environmental and educational components of the films tied in perfectly with the goals of the park.
"As always, the park deserves recognition for all the work that they did behind the scenes to ensure this event was possible."
With more than 300,000 annual visitors to Riding Mountain National Park, and local residents who are looking for inspiring new experiences that help them sample local culture and community, the festival is looking ahead to a bright future.
"We’re already looking forward to 2014," Langston said. "We’re thinking about things that can be done to improve the experience for festival goers.
"Riding Mountain National Park is captivating and inspiring. The more visitors we can attract to the area, the better it is for the local economy. Our community will be stronger and it will help promote the arts to people in the area."
Film, food and fun at the Foxtail
With its eclectic menu of wood-fired pizzas, pastas, panini, soups and salads, served up in an atmosphere of youthful vibe in a gorgeous funky building, Riding Mountain’s newest restaurant has taken the resort area by storm in its first year of operation.
The Foxtail Cafe opened this past spring beside the Green Spot satellite garden retail shop, right across from Sportsman’s Park on Highway 10 in Onanole.
"I’m a little overwhelmed actually by people’s response to the food," said Tyler Kaktins, who owns the Foxtail with his wife Julie. "Our food is a little different and our customers’ willingness to try new things has been great. It’s not just the tourists. It’s really been the locals that have warmed to us."
The restaurant is now in the middle of its 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. fall hours, which will be in place until the Thanksgiving long weekend.
Then, from Oct. 15 to May 1, the restaurant will reduce hours to 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. However, catering and private functions will be available throughout the winter.
For more information, call Foxtail Cafe at 204-848-2195.