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When screenwriter Paul Boge attended the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, God “put it on his heart” to give Winnipeggers the opportunity “to see great films they’d never see anywhere else.” In its second year, the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival boasted 160 percent more independent feature, documentary, and short film submissions than the previous year from as far away as Germany and Israel, and a gate admission of 2,039 viewers – up from 1,422 in 2011.

Feb. 22–26, North Kildonan MB’s sanctuary, youth, and three meeting rooms transformed into theatres where family-friendly films were not only viewed but discussed, and filmmakers from New York, Ottawa, Calgary, and Winnipeg offered Q&A sessions. Large Christian producers Sherwood Pictures (Courageous) and Pure Flix (What If?, Jerusalem Countdown, Marriage Retreat, Saving Winston) submitted features.

New York director/producer/editor Carlo Gennarelli was pleased with his doc Ordinary Joe’s reception at its “first international showing” because, while it’s not an overtly Christian film, a primarily churched audience engaged with the “you can make a difference” message of “a beer-drinking, blue-collar Vietnam vet on a mission to help the helpless.”

“Paul has been so supportive,” said New Yorker Kristina Harris, who wrote, produced, and acted in Diminished Chords about a hearing impaired friend’s musical dream; it tied for best short film based on viewer votes.

“I wanted to tell [Lisa’s story] – of overcoming obstacles and forgiving others – in a real way while leaving out some of the grit often seen in Hollywood films,” said Harris. “As I continue in filmmaking, I plan to tell stories that make people think and feel, but without it being obvious that I’m hitting them with a Christ-centred message. Hopefully as they ponder the message, they will feel the Spirit in their hearts and do good things in the world.”

Boge’s mentor for two decades, And When They Shall Ask producer David Dueck was one of the 60 volunteers. Dueck, who enjoyed watching viewers’ emotional responses, says he’s passionate about the power of film to communicate truth: “When the lights go down, everyone in the room is focused on your message.”

“One person even got saved after watching a couple of the movies,” says Boge, “My hope is that people will see the power of film as a way to connect with others.”

Festival profits supported inner-city projects of Siloam Mission and Union Gospel Mission.

—Angeline Schellenberg

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