‘Canada’s Coolest Film Festival’ Counts Down to 15th Anniversary

September 15, 2015
Posted by: Leslie Wootton

Whistler, BC, (August 31, 2015): The countdown is on to the 15th anniversary of ‘Canada’s coolest film festival’. The Whistler Film Festival (WFF) returns December 2 to 6 with fresh films, special guests, industry connections, epic events and time to play in North America’s premiere mountain resort destination. With just 14 weeks to go, WFF is offering a sneak peek of what audiences can expect at this year’s fest including its first 18 confirmed films, plus industry and event programming highlights.

The Whistler Film Festival combines an international film competition with a focused industry Summit dedicated to the art and business of filmmaking in the digital age. Featuring over 80 innovative and original films from around the world and opportunities to connect with the people who made them, this year’s fest will be filled with a solid lineup of premieres, honoured guests, lively celebrations, and unique industry initiatives.

WFF’s Director of Programming and industry veteran Paul Gratton had this to say about the 2015 lineup confirmed to date: “The Whistler Film Festival continues to be a must-attend event for hip, young, film buffs and emerging filmmakers, and we are pleased to carve out our own unique niche by offering an impressive selection of Canadian premieres. This year’s titles cast a wide net in terms of subject matter, and our Summit will complement our film programming by addressing key challenges and opportunities facing the industry this year. WFF15 has something for everyone. “While our final line-up of titles is far from complete, early programming trends suggest a very strong year for female directors and innovative new voices from young directors hoping to find new ways of telling stories and connecting with audiences.” One such example of innovation is the World Premiere showing of Daniel Robinson’s NESTOR, the first narrative feature ever made by one person, who wrote, produced, directed, edited and stars in this compelling tale of outdoor survival.

Another example of seeking out new narrative approaches, and leading this year’s women directors’ invasion of Whistler, is DIY queen Ingrid Veninger’s latest HE HATED PIGEONS about a young man pushed to the border of sanity as he steps into manhood. Beautifully shot in South America, the film is designed to support a spontaneous live score to be performed during the screening. In other words, each screening will evoke different responses depending on the approach taken by the live musician(s) accompanying the showing.

Other female directed gems coming to Whistler include the World Premiere of Vancouver filmmaker Melanie Jones’ FSM, a contemporary study of a female DJ trying to find love in a world of technological innovation and all-night raves.

Continuing its love of quirky musicals, WFF will present the Western Canadian premiere of Jude Klassen’s debut feature film LOVE IN THE SIXTH, an unromantic musical comedy of “enviromantic” angst. Another Canadian Premiere is Valerie Weiss’ A LIGHT BENEATH THEIR FEET, a superb study of the mutually dependent relationship between a young student hoping to leave home for college and her bipolar mother who can’t cope with the thought of letting her go. Taryn Manning, Maddie Hasson and Madison Davenport lead a superb cast. Another moving look at mother/daughter relationships can be found in the World Premiere of Siobhan Devine’s THE BIRDWATCHER, a family drama about a mother and daughter reconnecting starring WFF14 Rising Star Camille Sullivan and Gabrielle Rose.

The challenge of maintaining interpersonal relationships of any kind remains a dominant theme in this year’s selections. Be they outrageously comedic, as in the case of Jeremy Lalonde’s How to Plan Orgy in a Small Town, featuring Lauren Holly and Katharine Isabelle, or more darkly humorous, as in Sergio Navarretta’s The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship, set during a mouth-watering wine-tasting tour of the Niagara region. Darker still is the Canadian Premiere of Josh Hope’s The Life and Death of an Unhappily Married Man, in which a disillusioned young man decides to visit his past to see where it all went wrong. Brian Stockton’s The Sabbatical is a comedic look at a photography professor’s mid-life crisis and a young artist who rekindles the lost spirit of his youth, and Matthew Yim’s Basic Human Needs follows a young couple whose plans to get out of Regina are thwarted by a missing prophylactic. BC’s own Fred Ewanuick stars as a man who can see two minutes into the future in Vancouver filmmaker O. Corbin Saleken’s very amusing first feature Patterson’s Wager. BC based genre specialist Jeffery Lando will be gracing our late night screens with the Western Canadian Premiere of his latest horror outing Suspension. John Ainslie will be unveiling the World premiere of his tense psychological thriller The Sublet, about a new mother unraveling psychologically after and she and her fiance move into a sublet apartment, featuring Vancouver actress Tianna Nori in the lead.

On the documentary front, WFF will be presenting the North American premiere of Jan Foukal’s Amerika, a lyrical look at a unique Eastern European phenomenon known as ‘tramping’, as Vancouver-based Barbara Adler takes us on a mission into the mountains and the forests of the Czech Republic where she encounters social dropouts who choose to live what they consider to be a North American back-to-the-wilderness lifestyle. Last Harvest, from director Jane Hui Wang, is a Canadian documentary feature that looks at an elderly Chinese couple forced to relocate by the government to make way for a mammoth water diversion project. Also, on the international front, Whistler is proud to present the Canadian Premiere of Blood Cells by Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore about a lost man wandering through the British countryside, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and was described by Time Magazine as ‘visually sumptuous’.

As always, Whistler is pleased to feature the best of Quebec cinema, and this year the festival has two superb titles already lined up. Bernard Emond’s Diary of an Old Man is a deeply moving adaptation of an Anton Chekov story about an old man fighting feelings of bitterness despite his privileged life as an academic, starring Paul Savoie in a Canada Screen Awards worthy performance. Finally, a most haunting look at childhood innocence, at risk from the evils of an outside world is Philippe Lesage’s The Demons starring Pascale Bussières and Laurent Lucas, about a tight-knit small-town community beset by a child serial killer.

Celebrating its 12th edition in 2015, WFF’s coveted Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature honors independent vision, original directorial style and the diversity of talent found in Canadian independent film. New for 2015, all Canadian feature films in the festival with Western Canadian premiere status will be included in the Borsos Competition and there is no longer a six film restriction to the number that can compete. An international jury of three will decide on four awards including a $15,000 CDN prize, the largest cash festival prize for a Canadian film in the country with additional awards for Best Performance, Best Screenwriting and Best Direction.

WFF is still seeking submissions for its 15th edition. Canadian and International filmmakers are invited to submit films of all lengths and genres by the extended deadline of August 31.

Of course, Whistler’s ‘coolest film fest’ label is not just about screening films. From tributes to filmmaking luminaries to live music and high adrenaline sporting events, WFF delivers an action packed lineup for film enthusiasts and industry alike.

WFF’s slate of special events confirmed to date include the Opening and Closing Galas, Signature Series including the Pandora Tribute and Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch In Conversation, ShortWork Showdown, Awards Brunch and a grand15th Anniversary Celebration, with more to come.

New for 2015, WFF introduces the L’Oreal Mens Expert Bobsleigh Race on December 3 at the Whistler Sliding Centre, one of the fastest tracks in the world, where celebrities, filmmakers, VIP guests and corporate teams will experience the thrill of a lifetime reaching speeds up to 125 km per hour. And the adrenaline continues to flow with WFF’s annual Columbia Celebrity Challenge on December 5, with corporate teams and festival guests joining the stars of the screen and the stars of the slopes in a fun, guess your time, dual slalom race on Whistler Mountain. Proceeds from these fun-raising” events will support WFF’s annual programs for Canadian artists, including our industry initiatives, labs and festival.

Film meets music at WFF’s Music Café, which has expanded to two days to include an evening showcase on December 4, and daytime showcase and dedicated industry panel on December 5, with the possibility of additional performances during the festival. Up to 10 export-ready British Columbia songwriters and artists from across the musical spectrum will be selected to each play a live 20-minute set and meet with key international music and film executives and delegates attending the festival.

WFF’s Industry Summit will feature three concentrated days of business programs and networking that address the business and future of Canadian film, locally and in the international marketplace, as well as the ever-changing landscape of filmmaking in the digital age. Featuring over 20 interactive sessions, WFF’s Summit is designed to provide practical business and creative intel, and foster business collaborations for filmmakers and dealmakers. Offering in-depth conversations, lively debates and critical insight into a broad range of issues vital to the domestic and international film communities while addressing crossing borders and platforms, Whistler is the place to be, connect and deal this December. 1,000 delegates are expected to attend.

The Whistler Summit directly connects to WFF’s slate of project development programs designed to provide creative and business immersion experiences for Canadian artists including the Feature Project Lab, Praxis Screenwriters Lab, Aboriginal Filmmaker Fellowship and Music Café. WFF also collaborates with several industry organizations by hosting specific third party initiatives at the Whistler Summit including the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch, Women in the Directors Chair Industry Immersion, Women in Film & Television Film Market Preparation Mentorship, and the MPPIA Short Film Award Pitch with the Motion Picture Production Industry Association and Creative BC.  Application details and information for all WFF industry and project development programs are available at whistlerfilmfestival.com.

The Festival’s online box office is now open for VIP Insider Passes, Ticket Packages allowing you to select your films in advance and share them with friends and family, as well as early bird Industry Passes. New for 2015, WFF has introduced a Festival Credential that provides access to the Music Café, ShortWork Showdown and Festival Lodge, and is included in select ticket packages if purchased by October 31.

Air travel and ground transportation deals as well as best accommodation rates starting from $89 per night are now available. The Westin Whistler Resort and Spa is WFF’s official host hotel. WFF has 20 accommodation partners to choose from that offer special rates to Whistler Film Festival attendees. Book your accommodation early to ensure your perfect match and price. For information, go to whistlerfilmfestival.com.

The Whistler Film Festival + Summit are supported by the Government of Canada through and Western Economic Diversification, Telefilm Canada, Province of British Columbia, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Tourism Whistler, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation and the American Friends of Whistler, and is sponsored by Variety, Cineplex, Creative BC, The Harold Greenburg Fund, Pandora, L’Oreal, Columbia, Sorel, Whistler Blackcomb, Gibbons Life and the Westin Resort & Spa Whistler.

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