Long-lost film by mystery filmmaker shows 1936 ‘slice of life’ from Victoria Beach

By | July 12, 2019

White-clad cottagers, breezy beachgoers, stoic sailors, a playful gymnast and a majestic dog are the stars of an 83-year-old silent film showing Manitoba’s Victoria Beach that has now been rediscovered not once, but twice.

“We’re seeing a bit of a slice of life from 1936 of people who would have gone up to Victoria Beach at the time,” Winnipeg’s Justin Gulenchyn told Information Radio host Nadia Kidwai.

Gulenchyn works at the Winnipeg film studio Centric Productions, and if it wasn’t for his antique-loving dad taking a tour of his workplace, the film may very well still be collecting dust.

About 15 years ago, when Gulenchyn was a teenager, his dad, Daniel Gulenchyn, bought a box of random treasures at a Transcona estate sale for about $20. 

At the bottom, he discovered two mysterious film cans.

But those film cans sat unwatched in Daniel Gulenchyn’s dresser until 2018, when he went for a tour of the film studio  where his son worked.

“He noticed we had 8-mm projectors, and he said, ‘Hey, can we watch those films finally?'” Gulenchyn said. 

The rest is, quite literally, history. 

On one film reel, the father and son witnessed 14 minutes of Manitoba summer history gold. The film depicts what appears to be a family on vacation in the cottage community, 100 kilometres north of Winnipeg on Lake Winnipeg’s eastern shore. 

The family in the film seemed to take full advantage of the amenities at Victoria Beach, going golfing, sailing, swimming, and, of course, playing on the beach. (Justin Gulenchyn/YouTube)

On the other reel — rare footage of a royal visit to Winnipeg from 1939.  

The person behind the camera is still a mystery, but as a filmmaker himself, Gulenchyn couldn’t help but appreciate the fact it’s more than an amateur home video. 

“It’s incredible,” Gulenchyn said. 

“It appears to be an actual narrative film compiled by the person who shot it.”

Gulenchyn has put the film on YouTube, and it will be making its big-screen debut at the Victoria Beach Film Festival, which runs from Aug. 3 to 4.  

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