Whistler Film Festival Wraps Another Successful Year – Marina Antunes reports

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This past Sunday, December 2nd, the Whistler Film Festival wrapped another successful year and their 18th installment proved to be as successful as previous years.

WFF has long been a hub for female creatives and 2018 was no different. In addition to the tremendous collection of films in this years’ EDA Awards competitions, and the number of films featuring strong female leads (Mary Queen of Scots and On the Basis of Sex to name just two), the festival was once again host to Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch series which included no less than five female screenwriters. Among the honourees were Ashleigh Powell (The Nutcracker and The Four Realms), Elizabeth Chomko (What They Had), Sofia Alvarez (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before), Christy Hall (Daddio) and Jac Schaeffer (The Hustle).

The Awards Celebration was not only an opportunity to celebrate various award winners but also the festival as a whole as Festival Director Shauna Hardy Mishaw announced that the 2018 edition of the festival was almost at parity, featuring over 40% of films directed by women directors; a huge achievement and one to be celebrated.

Among the female directed fare worth note were Renée Beaulieu’s Les Salopes or The Naturally Wanton Pleasure of Skin, a film of such audacity that it’s difficult to believe Beaulieu managed to find an actress to pull it off. The film features a fearless performance from Brigitte Poupart who plays a 40-something professional with a healthy sexual appetite. That appetite dovetails with her research as a dermatology professor exploring new research looking for a correlation between skin’s response to physical contact from love versus lust.

There have been films in the past which tackle female sexuality but few have handled it with as much frankness and honesty as Beaulieu. Poupart owns her actions and desires and the film is a beautiful, if at times uncomfortable, celebration of female desire.

Emma Forrest’s Untogether is a different beast all-together, a sort of anti-romantic comedy which is both funny and romantic but which plays against the usual tropes of the romantic comedy.

Forrest’s feature film debut features an all-star cast including Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades franchise) and Jemima Kirke (TV’s Girls) as a pair of writers, each of them dealing with their personal demons, who have a one night-stand that develops into a more complicated and meaningful relationship. Also in the mix is Ben Mendelsohn playing a retired rock-star who is dating a much younger woman played by Kirke’s real-life sister Lola.

The Kirke sisters are at the centre of the story which follows the two women as they deal with the issues that arise from their respective relationships and though Forrest focuses primarily on the developing romance between Kirke and Dornan, the highlight is actually the younger Kirke’s more fraught relationship with Mendelsohn (who is brilliant), and Billy Crystal who gives an honest and touching performance.

Though there’s still much work to be done across the film industry to raise the profile of women and other minority groups and to tell stories that matter to the rest of the population, the 2018 edition of the Whistler Film Festival proved to be a great, positive way to celebrate the accomplishments of the year. Here’s looking to 2019!

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Marina Antunes

Marina has been writing and discussing film for over 15 years, first on a personal blog followed by a decade long tenure on the now retired Row Three. In 2008 she joined the writing staff at Quiet Earth, becoming Editor-In-Chief in 2014, a role she still holds. Over the years, she has also produced and hosted a number of podcasts including Before the Dawn, a long-running podcast on the Twilight franchise, Girls on Pop, a podcast on film and popular entertainment from women’s perspective and After the Credits, bi-monthly film podcast with nearly 300 episodes. Marina is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, is the Vice President of the Vancouver SIGGRAPH chapter and has served on juries for several film festivals including the DOXA, St. Louis International Film Festival, and the Whistler Film Festival. She joined the Spark CG Society as Festival Director in 2014.