Spotlight on: The Whistler Film Festival

When it rains, it snows – at least in Whistler. This year, the Whistler Film Festival will showcase 41 features.

Canadian selections include TIFF favorites including winner for Best Canadian Feature Film, Felix and Meira, and stylish sci-fi musical Bang Bang Baby, which took the Best Canadian First Feature Award. There’s also Sean Garrity’s After the Ball, a fairy tale retelling of the Cinderella story set in the world of fashion design, Cameron Labine’s comedic/dramatic tale of survival in the harsh Rocky Mountain winter, Mountain Men, Deanne Foley’s Relative Happiness about an overweight but feisty bed and breakfast operator in Nova Scotia, and Sophie Deraspe’s Wolves. All of the films will compete in the Borsos Awards.

Amongst this year’s lineup are also several potential Oscar contenders such as The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game. The festival will also host the Canadian premiere for J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, as well as the Western Canada premieres for Still Alice starring Julianne Moore about a woman dealing with an early onset of Alzheimer’s.

Documentaries include award-winners such as The Backward Class (audience award winner at Hot Docs), Point and Shoot (best documentary at Tribeca), and ’71 (9 British Independent Film Awards nominations).  

Paul Gratton, WFF’s artistic director, attributes the festival’s ability to secure films to good relationships with distributors. “Managing the relationships with the main distributors in Canada is the key to having a good festival, without them it’s impossible, you really need their support,” he says.  

According to Gratton, aside from good word-of-mouth and filmmaker loyalty, the festival also benefits from its timing and an existing vacuum for a real market for Canadian films to be showcased and scouted by distributors.  

One film that’s hoping to draw some attention is The Cocksure Lads Movie (one of the pitches vying for investors on “Dragon’s Den”), about a UK band that breaks up ten minutes into their North American tour. The pic is written and directed by musician Murray Foster (Moxy Früvous) who says that beyond taking advantage of the “hot-tubbing” and networking opportunities, he chose the festival because “they’ve got a great indie vibe and are also very supportive of Canadian films, it just seemed to make sense.”

The Industry Summit is also a big draw. Here the focus isn’t so much on the creative process but rather the nuts and bolts of film financing, distribution, and alternative platforms – all necessities for success.

The China Canada Gateway for Film® Script Competition, which returns for its third year, has also been a big draw, says Gratton, and he hopes to also generate some excitement with the newly launched India-Canada Film Forum, given Canada’s co-production treaty coming into effect.

Each year WFF also turns the spotlight on talent, with honorees to include Kim Cattrall, Dean DeBlois and Don Carmody, and Sarah Gadon, in addition to Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch.

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