A locally shot film, Aloft, got its first Winnipeg outing at a splashy red carpet event at Centennial Concert Hall on April 24. The event was attended by federal and provincial cabinet ministers, the director Claudia Llosa of Peru, the film's producers from Spain and France and a large cast and crew from Winnipeg.
Phyllis Laing, whose company Buffalo Gal Pictures of Winnipeg co-produced the film, called it a golden opportunity for Manitoba to celebrate its talent.
"I think that we need to understand that this is an amazingly talented province and it's really good to see people come out and embrace that. Most importantly, we're celebrating it here in our home town," she said.
Aloft stars Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy and Melanie Laurent, and tells the tale of a mother and her grown son who become reunited. It's set in Manitoba's wintry landscape in and around Bird's Hill Park, the town of Warren and on the frozen ice roads of Lake Winnipeg.
Laing said it was not difficult to lure Peruvian writer-director Claudia Llosa to Manitoba. All it took was a phone call from the Mexican production designer who was working on a previous film in Manitoba. He called Llosa and insisted she come here and check out the location.
"It was the perfect match for the director's vision," said Laing, whose hit film Heaven is for Real is currently playing in theatres in Winnipeg.
"Our icy cold landscape was the perfect place for this film. Winter has never looked so spectacular. That might be a hard pill to swallow, after this winter, but this film shows our winter in such a spectacular way. People in Spain who have seen this are now thinking of Winnipeg as the new Hollywood," she said, laughing.
Llosa returned to Winnipeg for the screening and now calls the city her second home. "It's incredible. It's such a cinematic place," she said. "The people are amazing and everybody's so kind. I felt so welcomed since the very beginning."
Securing Jennifer Connelly for the lead role was quite the coup. Llosa said Connelly really liked the script, first of all.
"We met and very quickly and I just fell in love with her. She's so smart, so incredible, so easy-going and she understood the story at such a level and with such depth. I'm just so glad that she decided to risk it and to work with us and to be part of the film. She's done so much and she's given so much to this story, I'm sure you're going to love her work."
Llosa's previous success was a film called The Milk of Sorrow, which won a Golden Bear award in Berlin. It was also the first Peruvian film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The televised broadcast of the awards was one of the most viewed programs in Peruvian history.
Aloft has already premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. It's scheduled to hit Winnipeg theatres in January, 2015.