Festival goers attending the 18th annual Whistler Film Festival (WFF), taking place from November 28 to December 2, can look forward to 85 fresh films including 50 features and 35 shorts representing 12 countries. WFF is set to open this year with Josie Rourke’s MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, starring two of last year’s Oscar nominated best actresses, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. Rourke’s breathtakingly beautiful directorial debut explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Ronan), and her struggle to reclaim her rightful throne as Queen of Scotland, then under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Robbie).
Closing the festival is the Canadian Premiere of groundbreaking surf documentary MOMENTUM GENERATION. Directed by Academy Award-shortlisted and Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmakers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, the documentary follows the biggest names in surfing, including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb and the late Todd Chesser. Executive produced by Sundance founder Robert Redford with stunning archival footage from the godfather of surf films Taylor Steele, MOMENTUM GENERATION gives audiences an inside look at the lives of these teenagers as they rose to super stardom as the first competitive surfers.
WFF will screen six award season contenders including hosting the Canadian premieres of ON THE BASIS OF SEX, Mimi Leder’s topical biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg played by Felicity Jones, and Robert Budreau’s STOCKHOLM with Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace. The festival will also feature Western Canadian Premieres of AT ETERNITY’S GATE, director Julian Schnabel’s take on the life on Vincent Van Gogh played by Willem Dafoe; IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, the first film from director Barry Jenkins since winning the Academy Award for Best Picture with MOONLIGHT; Alfonso Cuarón’s masterful ROMA, which – for the first time ever at WFF – will be shown in 4k projection and 7.2 sound; and FAMILY FIRST (CHIEN DE GARDE) directed by Sophie Dupuis, Canada’s entry in this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar category.
Other highlights include the World Premiere of Borsos Jury member Bruce McDonald’s CLAIRE’S HAT, an unprecedented filmic mea culpa about the making of the 2001 fiasco PICTURE CLAIRE. This funny, insightful and brilliantly reconstructed exploration documents what went wrong during the shooting of McDonald’s biggest budget movie to date. Direct from its premiere at Telluride, Brigitte Berman’s HUGH HEFNER’S AFTER DARK: SPEAKING OUT IN AMERICA, features a treasure trove of archival footage with everyone from Lenny Bruce to Moms Mabley.
Programming strands include American Indies, Canadian Vanguard, Contenders, Doc Bloc, First Features, From Overseas, From The Vault, Mountain Culture, ShortWork, and World Premieres.
WFF boasts that four of its five films in its American Indies strand will grace Canadian screens for the first time in Whistler. Titles include Wendy McColm’s funny and bittersweet BIRDS WITHOUT FEATHERS; Adisa’s horrifying look at sex trafficking in SKIN IN THE GAME; Alex Harvey’s brilliant WALDEN: LIFE IN THE WOODS with Oscar nominee Demián Bichir; and Emma Forrest’s moving UNTOGETHER, with Jamie Dornan (50 SHADES OF GREY), Jemima Kirke, Lola Kirke, Ben Mendelsohn and Jennifer Grey. Finally, Sebastián Silva’s TYREL features Michael Cera in a story about a lone black man on otherwise all-white weekend of drunken bro debauchery on a birthday trip to a cabin in the Catskills.
This year, 18 Canadian films will compete for Canada’s second largest festival prize in the 15th annual Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature. Borsos titles feature seven World Premieres including Jon Silverberg’s haunting WOODLAND (shot in BC); Métis director Shane Belcourt’s mission to Mars comedy RED ROVER starring Cara Gee; Jesse Zigelstein’s restaurant owner drama for foodies NOSE TO TAIL, Carolyn Combs’ ode to multiculturalism in Vancouver BELLA CIAO!; Natty Zavitz’s moving forbidden romance drama ACQUAINTED; Maja Zdanowski’s ambitious multi-character drama IN GOD I TRUST; Zack Bernbaum’s hilariously deadpan road movie about two Toronto Jews on a trek into Poland THE DANCING DOGS OF DOMBROVA; and Rama Rau’s HONEY BEE, which features another unforgettable performance by Julia Sarah Stone (WFF 2017 Star to Watch Alumni) as an underage truckstop hooker.
Western Canadian premieres in the Borsos Competition include Deanne Foley’s poignant exploration of mental illness and maternal yearnings, AN AUDIENCE OF CHAIRS; Kristina Wagenbauer’s moving story of mother/daughter conflict SASHINKA; Geneviève Dulude-De Celles’ A COLONY (UNE COLONIE), a memorable small-town coming of age story; Roz Owen’s study of a disenfranchised First Nations woman TROUBLE IN THE GARDEN featuring Cara Gee; Renée Beaulieu’s shockingly honest THE NATURALLY WANTON PLEASURE OF SKIN (LES SALOPES); Darlene Naponse’s FALLS AROUND HER featuring a career-best performance by Tantoo Cardinal; Lenin M. Sivam’s ROOBHA, a moving and empathetic look at transgender romance within the Canadian Tamil community; Sébastien Pilote’s award-winning coming of age story THE FIREFLIES ARE GONE; Sophie Dupuis’ first feature FAMILY FIRST (CHIEN DE GARDE), Canada’s entry in this year’s Foreign language Oscar category; and the Canadian Premiere of Robert Budreau’s STOCKHOLM with Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace.
In addition to the Canadian Premiere of the definitive surfing documentary MOMENTUM GENERATION which will close the festival, this year’s Mountain Culture films include premieres of Whistler-based directors Brian Hockenstein and Tamo Campos’ THE RADICALS which follows a group of snowboarders and surfers who drift from the mountains and oceans into the world of activism; Patagonia’s stunning winter film TREELINE which explores the diverse forests of British Columbia, Nevada, and Japan, directed by Vancouver-based Jordan Manley; and winner of the Best Documentary award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, FREE SOLO, directed by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, a stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold’s preparations to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world’s most famous rock – the 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park – without a rope.
This year’s Doc Bloc competition features a refreshingly diverse line-up. Two BC-based productions will grace our screens, including NEVER BE DONE: THE RICHARD GLEN LETT STORY directed by Roy Tighe about a self-sabotaging Vancouver based stand-up comic, and the World Premiere of FUCK YOU ALL: THE UWE BOLL STORY directed by Sean Patrick Shaul. Canadian premieres include Brian Bellinkoff’s PSYCHONAUTICS: A COMIC’S EXPLORATION OF PSYCHEDELICS with comedian Shane Mauss, and Brigitte Berman’s HUGH HEFNER’S AFTER DARK: SPEAKING OUT IN AMERICA. In addition, WFF will screen the World Premiere of Jaren Hayman’s eye-opening exploration of Canada’s largest black community in THIS IS NORTH PRESTON. Western Canadian premieres include THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING, Tom Donahue’s timely reminder of gender inequality in the film and television industries being shown as part of WFF’s Women on Top Series, and our British Columbia premiere selection includes Laura Marie Wayne’s LOVE, SCOTT, about the lasting impact of a horrific incident of homophobic violence, produced by the National Film Board of Canada.
Other films of note in this year’s lineup include the family-friendly first feature from the Northwest Territories’ Jennifer Walden, ELIJAH AND THE ROCK CREATURE; musical Christmas zombie movie ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE that simply must be seen to be believed; Gillian McKercher’s realistic look at working in the Alberta oil sands CIRCLE OF STEEL; Collin Friesen’s hilarious comedy about burying a deceased father’s ashes featuring a stand-out performance from Bruce Greenwood, SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS; and Eva Husson’s rousing film detailing a Kurdish all-female battalion, GIRLS OF THE SUN. Borsos award winner Maxime Giroux (FELIX AND MEIRA 2014) returns with his newest THE GREAT DARKENED DAYS, and Gary Burns honors the festival with his Mountain Culture entry MAN RUNNING, about a doctor running a marathon in the Rockies.
WFF 2018 COMPLETE FEATURE FILM LISTING BY STRAND
BIRDS WITHOUT FEATHERS (United States) Dir. Wendy McColm
SKIN IN THE GAME (United States) Dir. Adisa
TYREL (United States) Dir. Sebastián Silva
UNTOGETHER (United States) Dir. Emma Forrest
WALDEN: LIFE IN THE WOODS (United States) Dir. Alex Harvey
AN AUDIENCE OF CHAIRS (Canada) Dir. Deanne Foley
FALLS AROUND HER (Canada) Dir. Darlene Naponse
THE FIREFLIES ARE GONE (Canada) Dir. Sébastien Pilote
THE GREAT DARKENED DAYS (Canada) Dir. Maxime Giroux
MAN RUNNING (Canada) Dir. Gary Burns
THE NATURALLY WANTON PLEASURE OF SKIN (Canada) Dir. Renée Beaulieu
AT ETERNITY’S GATE (United States) Dir. Julian Schnabel
FAMILY FIRST (CHIEN DE GARDE) (Canada) Dir. Sophie Dupuis
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (United States) Dir. Barry Jenkins
ON THE BASIS OF SEX (United States) Dir. Mimi Leder
ROMA (United States, Mexico) Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
STOCKHOLM (Canada) Dir. Robert Budreau
A COLONY (Canada) Dir. Geneviève Dulude-De Celles
ACQUAINTED (Canada) Dir. Natty Zavitz
THE DANCING DOGS OF DOMBROVA (Canada) Dir. Zack Bernbaum
HONEY BEE (Canada) Dir. Rama Rau
ROOBHA (Canada) Dir. Lenin M. Sivam
FUCK YOU ALL: THE UWE BOLL STORY (Canada) Dir. Sean Patrick Shaul
HUGH HEFNER’S AFTER DARK: SPEAKING OUT IN AMERICA (Canada) Dir. Brigitte Berman
LOVE, SCOTT (Canada) Dir. Laura Marie Wayne
NEVER BE DONE: THE RICHARD GLEN LETT STORY (Canada) Dir. Roy Tighe
PSYCHONAUTICS: A COMIC’S EXPLORATION OF PSYCHEDELICS (United States) Dir. Brian Bellinkoff
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (United States) Dir. Tom Donahue
THIS IS NORTH PRESTON (Canada) Dir. Jaren Hayman
CIRCLE OF STEEL (Canada) Dir. Gillian McKercher
ELIJAH AND THE ROCK CREATURE (Canada) Dir. Jen Walden
SASHINKA (Canada) Dir. Kristina Wagenbauer
SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS (Canada) Dir. Collin Friesen
TROUBLE IN THE GARDEN (Canada) Dir. Roz Owen
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (United Kingdom) Dir. John McPhail
GIRLS OF THE SUN (France) Dir. Eva Husson
KARMA (China) Dir. Lutao Wang
THE QUAKE (Norway) Dir. John Andreas Andersen
From The Vault
CLAIRE’S HAT (Canada) Dir. Bruce McDonald
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (United Kingdom) Dir. Josie Rourke
MOMENTUM GENERATION (United States) Dir. Jeff & Michael Zimbalist
FREE SOLO (United States) Dir. E. Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin
MAN RUNNING (Canada) Dir. Gary Burns
MOMENTUM GENERATION (United States) Dir. Jeff & Michael Zimbalist
THE RADICALS (Canada) Dir. Brian Hockenstein & Tamo Campos
TREELINE (Canada) Dir. Jordan Manley
BELLA CIAO! (Canada) Dir. Carolyn Combs
IN GOD I TRUST (Canada) Dir. Maja Zdanowski
INTO INVISIBLE LIGHT (Canada) Dir. Shelagh Carter
NOSE TO TAIL (Canada) Dir. Jesse Zigelstein
RED ROVER (Canada) Dir. Shane Belcourt
WOODLAND (Canada) Dir. Jon Silverberg
WFF 2018 Feature Films Eligible for the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature:
AN AUDIENCE OF CHAIRS
THE DANCING DOGS OF DOMBROVA
FALLS AROUND HER
THE FIREFLIES ARE GONE
IN GOD I TRUST
THE NATURALLY WANTON PLEASURE OF SKIN
NOSE TO TAIL
TROUBLE IN THE GARDEN