After attending film festivals in Gimli and Banff over the last year, Steve Langston 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 has started the Riding Mountain National Park Film Festival, which opens today and runs through Saturday.
"Until a year ago, I had never been to a film festival, but quickly discovered that they were incredible places to watch movies that delve into the topics I am passionate about, but that are often hard to find in mainstream movie houses," said Langston, an enterprising young filmmaker and owner of Dirty T Shirt Productions.
The Riding Mountain National Park Film Festival will explore topics of importance to the environmental movement, adventure and travel, local cuisine and other regionally based themes that Langston believes will interest Manitoba film lovers.
He has teamed up with Friends of Riding Mountain National Park, a not-for-profit organization that promotes awareness and appreciation of the park, to assist with ticketing and local logistics.
The festival starts today in Dauphin with a two-day digital media camp presented by Catalyst Credit Union. During the camp, nine kids aged 10 to 18 will learn the basics of filmmaking from storytelling, camera operation, audio, lighting and editing. Their final project will see the kids making their own short films about the area.
After the two-day Digital Media Camp is complete, there will be a screening of the kids’ movies as well as Langston’s recent production, "Tailwind: Prairie Harvest" at the Dauphin Community Cinema.
The festival then moves to Wasagaming, where the second two-day digital media camp for youth will be held, again culminating with a screening of the students’ work.
On Friday and Saturday, at Riding Mountain National Park’s Visitor Centre theatre, there will be screenings of documentaries in the adventure and environmental genres, as well as movies by Manitoba filmmakers about subjects of local interest.
"I’m really excited about all of the movies that we will be showing," Langston said. "They’re all movies that have entertained or inspired me over the past year and I am thrilled to be able to share them with festivalgoers."
On Saturday starting at
9 p.m., there will also be a "Dinner and a Movie" event held at the new Foxtail Cafe in Onanole.
"Tailwind: Prairie Harvest," a movie about a group of four friends who cycle around Manitoba consuming only food grown in this province, will be shown. After the screening, guests will be invited to sample a variety of dishes made solely from ingredients grown in Manitoba, all creations of the Foxtail’s chef and owner Tyler Kaktins.
Langston believes that Riding Mountain is the ideal location for his film festival because it is home to a vibrant arts community and several suitable venues. There is also the audience of existing and potential film lovers to be drawn from the 300,000 annual visitors and local residents who are looking for inspiring new experiences that help them sample local culture and community.
Langston has been very impressed by the support he has received from Parks Canada.
"When I started planning the festival, I was hesitant about approaching the park because I was worried they would overwhelm me with bureaucratic policy but it wasn’t like that at all," he said.
"From the time I started the project, they were behind me 100 per cent, providing information, support and facilities including use of the Visitor Centre Theatre. Their support has been critical in getting the festival off of the ground."
The festival, which Langston aims to turn into an annual event, will provide visitors and locals with entertaining and informative film going experiences, and will also drive visits to the area in the future.
Tickets for the five-day event are available at Friends of Riding Mountain National Park Learning Centre at 154 Columbine St., or at the door before events (call 204-848-4037, or visit friendsof ridingmountain.ca).
For a complete schedule or to register for the digital media camps, please head to rmnpfilmfest.ca.