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2 items from 2015

The 15th Edition of ‘Canada’s Coolest Film Festival’ Wraps

9 December 2015 7:00 AM, PST | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

The 15th anniversary celebration of the Whistler Film Festival wrapped Sunday night, living up to its title as ‘Canada’s coolest film fest’ by hosting more premieres, filmmakers, industry executives, and celebrities than ever before, including unique experiences from films, music and parties to high adrenaline races.

The Whistler Film Festival’s Pandora Audience Award went to British-American romantic drama "Carol," directed by Todd Haynes from the screenplay by Phyllis Nagy (Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch class of 2014) starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which received its Canadian premiere at Whistler. The Wff Audience Award runner-ups were "The Legend of Barney Thomson," character-actor Robert Carlyle's first theatrical feature and directorial debut, which received its North American premiere at the festival, followed by Ricardo Trogi’s mid-life crisis dramedy, Quebec film "Le Mirage," the highest grossing and most popular Canadian film of the year so far. The Wff Audience Award is a non-cash prize presented to the highest-rated film as voted by the audience.

Paul Gratton, Director of Programming had this to say about this year’s event: "We were very fortunate to open this year's fest with the Canadian premiere of "Carol," a film we are convinced will be a major contender in this year's awards season race. The festival took off from there, with many sold out screenings, packed and newsworthy industry sessions, and over 450 guests who made a point of trekking out to beautiful Whistler to support their films and talk business with the high-level movers and shakers also in attendance. 2015 represented another step forward towards making Wff the coolest festival in the world. Can't wait 'til next year.”

Total attendance for this year’s fest was 13,233 attendees (a 18% increase over 11,273 in 2014) . This included 7,740 film-screening attendees and 3,533 special event attendees (Signature Series, Music Café, ShortWork Showcase, R-Rated Party, Awards Brunch, L’Oreal Men Expert Bobsleigh Race and Celebrity Challenge Ski Race), in addition to 2,530 Summit attendees. Several of the feature films were at or near capacity, including: "Born to be Blue," "Chasing Bansky," "Forsaken," "How to Plan and Orgy in a Small Town," "Legend,""Legend of Barney Thomson," "Numb," "The Lady in the Van," "the Steps," and "Trumbo." 

Designed to facilitate international alliances and financial partnerships, Wff’s industry Summit program presented 30 interactive sessions that addressed a range of issues affecting the film, television, and digital media industry. Overall Summit attendance was at 86% capacity with 2,530 attendees (a 13% increase over 2,231 in 2014) including 855 delegates (on par with 2014). The Whistler Summit directly connects to Wff’s slate of project development programs designed to provide creative and business immersion experiences for 42 Canadian artists including its 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 Women in the Director’s 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. In addition to the

204 scheduled meetings (a 10% increase over 186 in 2014) that took place during the Summit, there was again a notable increase in unscheduled meetings that took place outside of scheduled blocks proving the festival remains an important place for the industry to meet and do business. Industry guests came from Canada, USA, UK, India, and China to participate, and included some of the top talent and executives in the business.

Film met music when Morning Show, one of the ten-featured BC artists from Wff’s Music Café, performed the live score for "He Hated Pigeons." Wff’s Music Café, which expanded to include two showcases over two days and featured five music supervisors, was well received with several deals in the works and over 526 guests in attendance.

Toronto’s first-time feature director Jamie M. Dagg’s "River" dominated Whistler prize-giving, winning for best Canadian feature, Best Director and Best Screenplay in the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature presented by the Directors Guild of Canada – British Columbia. The jury also awarded French-Canadian actor Paul Savoie with Best Performance in a Borsos Film for his performance in "The Diary of an Old Man," as well as provided honorable mention for Rossif Sutherland’s work in "River" and Laura Abramsen’s roles in "Basic human Needs" and "The Sabbatical." Lastly, Best Cinematography in a Borsos Film, presented by I.A.T.S.E. Local 669, went to cinematographer Dylan Macleod for "He Hated Pigeons," directed by Ingrid Veninger. The Borsos Jury was comprised of three accomplished film industry artists that included the highly versatile director and screenwriter and WFF15 Alumni Carl Bessai ("Rehearsal), beloved actor and director Marc-André Grondin , and award-winning producer extraordinaire, Kim McCraw.

Other Whistler award winners included "Last Harvest" by first-time female director Hui (Jane) Wang that won the World Documentary Award presented by with honorable mention for Brian D. Johnson’s "Al Purdy Was Here." The Best Mountain Culture Film presented by Whistler Blackcomb went to Anthony Bonello’s "Eclipse." The Canadian ShortWork Award went to "Withheld" directed by Johnathan Sousa, with an honorable mention to Amanda Strong and Bracken Hanuse Corlett’s Mia’. The International ShortWork Award was awarded to "Dissonance" by Germany filmmaker Till Nowak, with Langara College’s Canadian ShortWork Award for Best Screenplay given to Jem Garrard’s "The World Who Came to Dinner." Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Lawrence Lam won the ShortWork Student Award presented by Capilano University Film Centre for "The Blue Jet," and Maja Aro won the Mppia Short Film Award for "Hoods" presented by Mppia and Creative BC, which consists of a $15,000 cash award plus up to $100,000 in services. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists (Awfj) Eda Awards gave Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature to Valerie Weiss’ "A Light Beneath Their Feet," Best Female-Directed Documentary to Hui (Jane) Wang’s "Last Harvest," with a special mention for Brian D. Johnson’s "Al Purdy Was Here." In addition, Céline Devaux’s "Sunday Lunch" took home the Best Female-Directed Short Award.

Receiving Wff’s Trailblazer Award and Tribute presented by Pandora, British-born Canadian actor, film producer, and film director Kiefer Sutherland discussed his extensive acting career spanning film, stage and television, with CTV Film Critic Jim Gordon , followed by the Western Canadian Premiere of his latest film, "Forsaken." Scottish-born Robert Carlyle , one of the most recognizable actors today, graced the Festival’s red carpet at this year’s Spotlight event as Wff’s Maverick Award honoree and sat down with Jim Gordon to discuss his bold choices that have led to the creation of some of the most dynamic, memorable, and beloved characters of our time before the North American Premiere of his directorial debut, "The Legend the Barny Thomson." One of Canada's hardest working and most accomplished character actors, Bruce Greenwood was the recipient of Wff’s Career Achievement Award, at the World Premiere of his latest film "Rehearsal," directed by admired Wff Alumni Carl Bessai.

The Whistler Film Festival proudly hosted the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch for the fourth consecutive year hosted by Variety Vice President and Executive Editor, Steven Gaydos . This year’s slate of screenwriters in attendance included Bryan Sipe ("Demolition"), John Scott III ("Maggie"), Meg LeFauve ("Inside Out"), Mike Le ("Patient Zero"), and Emma Donoghue ("Room"), who also delivered a Master Class for the Wff Praxis Screenwriters Lab participants.

To top it all off, Lauren Lee Smith ("How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town"), Jakob Davies ("The Birdwatcher"), Taylor Russell and Rustin Gresiuk ("Suspension") were recognized as Wff’s Rising Stars sponsored by Ubcp/Actra at this year’s Keynote Filmmaker Luncheon presented by Pacific Northwest Pictures, and all had films premiering at the fest.

Over 400 guests attended the fest with other notable talent in attendance with films premiering at the fest including: actor Rossif Sutherland ("River"), director Jon Cassar ("Forsaken"), actor Callum Keith Rennie ("Born to Be Blue"), director/writer Sandy Wilson ("My American Cousin), actors Aleks Paunovic, Stefanie von Pfetten, Marie Avgeropoulos and Colin Cunningham ("Numb"), actors Chelah Horsdal and Alex Zahara ("Patterson's Wager"), actor Sage Brocklebank ("Suspension"), actors Gabrielle Rose and Camille Sullivan ("The Birdwatcher"), actor Rebecca Dalton ("The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship"), actor Paul Savoie ("The Diary of an Old Man"), director and founder of the Toronto Film Critics Association Brian D. Johnson ("Al Purdy Was Here"), director and co-founder of World Elephant Day Patricia Sims and co-director Michael Clark ("When Elephants Were Young"), "The Steps" director Andrew Currie and actor Steven McCarthy , and award-winning directors Philippe Lesage ("The Demons") and Ricardo Trogi ("The Miracle"). Veteran director Bruce McDonald attended as a mentor of the Wff Praxis Screenwriters Lab, as well as Canadian actress, writer, filmmaker, comedian, and social activist Mary Walsh , who participated in the Women In The Director’s Chair program and got a standing ovation as Wff’s Keynote Speaker at the Filmmaker Luncheon. »

- Peter Belsito

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Whistler Film Festival 2015 Unveils First 18 Films Plus Other Highlights

7 September 2015 8:00 AM, PDT | Sydney's Buzz | See recent Sydney's Buzz news »

The 15th anniversary of what's considered ‘Canada's coolest film festival' is rapidly approaching. The 2015 Whistler Film Festival (Wff) will take place December 2 to 6 with new films, special guests, industry connections, great events and time to enjoy on of  North America’s premiere mountain resort destinations. Wff has announced 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, honored 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.”

A great example of innovation will be the World Premiere screening 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 present at 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. 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 musicians accompanying the showing. Other female directed highlights 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 Lights 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 the 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.

Jeremy Lalonde's "How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town," featuring Lauren Holly and Katharine Isabelle; and Sergio Navarretta's "The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship," set during a mouth-watering winetasting tour of the Niagara region; focus on the challenge of maintaining interpersonal relationships. 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 first feature "Patterson's Wager."

BC based genre specialist Jeffery Lando will be gracing the late night screens with the Western Canadian Premiere of his latest horror work "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.

As always, Whistler is pleased to feature the best of Quebec cinema, and this year the festival has two 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 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.

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 the 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 deal-makers. 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 »

- Peter Belsito

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