Canadian Films at Whistler
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(November 27, 2018 – Toronto, ON) About 12,000 people live in Whistler, a picturesque community perched on a mountain 121 kilometres north of Vancouver, British Columbia. It survives largely because some 2 million visitors invade the Whistler Blackcombe resort during the ski season, with another 2.5 million visiting during the summer. It is also home to the relatively small (compared to VIFF in Vancouver) but relatively important Whistler Film Festival.
Founded in 2001, according to their website the festival is “a well-respected, credible event on the international film festival circuit, augmented by film presentations and market-driven development programs for Canadian talent throughout the year. WFF programs serve over 16,000 attendees annually, with the festival attracting 14,000 attendees including 1,000 industry insiders, and 2,000 attendees through year round initiatives.”
What makes it important? Here’s a statement from an Indiegogo fundraising page: “Its unique soul is discovering, developing & launching Canadian filmmakers and their films into the world. Our script-to-screen talent and industry programs a) hone their skills and projects and b) connect them with industry leaders that help their films be made and seen.”
The Festival received over 1,000 submissions, which produced a schedule of 85 films including 50 features and 35 shorts representing 12 countries. Female-directed films account for 46% of the lineup. There are 16 first time feature films, 21 feature films directed by women, and a total of 64% of its program is premiering Canadian features, more than any other international Canadian film festival this year. We can’t look at all the Canadian films at Whistler this year (there is a link below), but here are a few brief takes on some of them.
The first is a documentary with the outrageous title of Fuck You All, The Uwe Boll Story. Written, directed, shot, edited and co-produced by Sean Patrick Shaul, the 97-minute film unveils the raw emotion toward a man who is justifiably a cult legend and is known and remembered in part for being a modern-day Ed Wood, who made films so bad, they’re good. It has its World Premiere on November 29th. Click here to watch the trailer and learn more about Fuck You All, The Uwe Boll Story.
November 30th also sees the first of two screenings of the documentary Hugh Hefner’s After Dark: Speaking Out in America. It’s from director Brigitte Berman and this is her 2nd look into the life of the Playboy publisher. This one focuses almost exclusively on the two late night syndicated series that Playboy produced: Playboy’s Penthouse, from 1959 to 1960 and Playboy After Dark from 1968 to 1970. It is a snapshot of the times when most black artists had little exposure on mainstream US television networks. These late night shows featured many black artists like Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan and Dick Gregory. Seeing how good breakthrough television once was is a joy for those of us who watched the original shows and well worth seeing for people who never knew how good early television could be.
The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova is another Canadian feature, but this one has its roots deeply set in Europe, both in its story and its style and execution. If you’re a fan of “European film” you’ll recognize a familiar sort of deft and gentle storytelling where there is an unusual mix of comedy and drama, pain and joy, light and dark. Director Zack Bernbaum describes the film as “an absurdist drama.” The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova will have its Canadian Premiere at the Whistler Film Festival on November 30, 2018. Click here to watch a trailer and learn more about The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova. Northernstars.ca has talked with the film’s director and will publish that interview later this week.
Falls Around Her stars Tantoo Cardinal (pictured above) and had its World Premiere at this year’s imagineNATIVE festival in Toronto. It screens at Whistler on November 30 and is eligible for their prestigious Borsos Competition, named after famed Canadian filmmaker Phillip Borsos. The award is open to Canadian films screening in Western Canada for the first time.
Another film that screened earlier this year but is on Whistler’s schedule is the Québec production La disparition des lucioles (The Fireflies Are Gone). It had its North American Premiere at TIFF and was named the Best Canadian Film on the festival’s closing night. It screens at Whistler on December 1st.
Into Invisible Light was shot in Winnipeg, and stars Jennifer Dale in this story of forgiveness, second chances and the revitalizing power of art. Confronted by an odd directive from her late husband’s estate, her character, Helena, is inspired to rekindle a long repressed desire to write. Dale cowrite the screenplay with director Shalegh Carter. Into Invisible Light will have its World Premiere on December 1st and its 2nd screening is on December 2nd.
If Whistler used some device, a small Canadian flag or a red maple leaf to indicate which films are Canadian it would make navigating their website a lot easier. Click here for a link to the Whistler Film Festival and other film festivals.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.