For five short days in December, the Resort Municipality of Whistler turns from one of the world’s top ski destinations into one of the top entertainment destinations as the Whistler Film Festival descends on the village.
In its 19th year, now programmed by Paul Gratton, the latest edition of festival continued the tradition of celebrating Canadian talent with 71% of the scheduled films being Canadian.
The talent and variety of Canada’s industry were on full display with an unprecedented 20 films vying for the Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature. The competition was intense, and featured a wide variety of themes and filmmaking styles, ranging from Gloria Ui Young Kim’s drama Queen of the Morning Calm, to Kirk Caouette’s martial arts actioner Promiseland.
But in the end, the festival’s top prize was presented to Sophie Deraspe’s outstanding Antigone (which is also Canada’s submission for the 2020 Best International Film Oscar) Antigone actually swept the Borsos Awards, winning Best Borsos Director Award, Best Screenplay and Best Performance in a Borsos Competition Film Award.
Antigone also received AWFJ’s EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Feature.
While Canadian talent were the highlight of the festival, international stars also graced the red carpet. Simon Pegg was awarded the Maverick Award and attended the festival on behalf of his latest film Lost Transmissions directed by Katherine O’Brien, perennial “bad guy” Joe Pantoliano, whose new film From the Vine screened at the festival, received the Career Achievement Award, while the multi-hyphenated talent that is Chelsea Peretti received the Trailblazer Award. Peretti’s latest project Spinster, from director Andrea Dorfman, also played at the festival.
As a long-time attendee, 2019 marked my 10th anniversary, one of the highlights of WFF is the community atmosphere that runs through the festival, both on the ground and from year to year. It’s not uncommon to randomly spot and have conversations with directors, actors, and producers on the village stroll but more than that, it’s encouraging to see how the festival fosters a real sense of family, with creators returning to partake in the festival with new films, as jury members, or as mentors. It speaks volumes to the work being done by the organizing committee under the long-time leadership of Shauna Hardy Mishaw that the festival not only fosters these relationships but continues to forge new ones.
It’s been interesting to observe the growth of the festival and the changes it has undergone over the years but one thing remains the same: the commitment to nurturing and celebrating Canadian talent. I can always count on discovering something or someone new and this year proved to be no exception. Notable titles to look forward to in the coming year include Black Conflux, a tense thriller from first-time feature film director Nicole Dorsey which tells the parallel stories of a teenage girl and a blue-collar worker both searching for their place in the world. Nicholas Treeshin’s Thunderbird is an impressive debut which mixes a police procedural with a supernatural angle that is uniquely specific to BC but speaks to a universal audience, while Tony Dean Smith’s Volition is a hugely entertaining and smart time-travel sci-fi thriller.
2019 was another great year but I’m already looking ahead to 2020 and what the festival’s 20th edition will have to offer but undoubtedly, it will impress. The dates for the 20th Whistler Film Festival are December 2 to 6, 2020. For news and updates, visit the Whistler Film Festival website.