With just 11 weeks to go until its 19th edition, the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) announced the first 12 Canadian titles that will screen at WFF19. The titles include nine World Premieres and three Canadian Premieres, nine of which are eligible for WFF’s coveted Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature which offers a $15,000 cash prize presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia. The 12 films provide a sneak peek of what audiences can expect at this year’s fest and a taste of the many exciting and fresh Canadian titles coming to Whistler from December 4th to 8th.
“With at least nine World Premieres, and a number of Canadian exclusives bowing at this year’s event, Whistler continues to enhance its reputation as a premium showcase for new and important Canadian works. The quality of the filmmaking continues to improve year over year,” says Paul Gratton, WFF’s Director of Programming. “Featuring a healthy mix of fresh storytelling voices and many alumni gracing us with their latest features, the Whistler Film Festival remains the “coolest” Canadian festival on the fall festival circuit, and a “can’t miss” event for anyone who cares about the quality of Canadian storytelling in this country.”
British Columbia-based films will be well represented at this year’s festival with three titles.
PROMISELAND (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Kirk Caouette)
Following the triumphant premiere of his previous feature HIT ‘N STRUM at Whistler in 2013, stunt expert and film veteran Kirk Caouette has entrusted us with his latest action-packed feature. The story concerns a troubled prostitute and a violent stranger bent on vigilante action. This film features brilliantly choreographed action fight sequences that would be worthy of the John Wick series.
THUNDERBIRD (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Nicholas Treeshin)
Reconciliation and making peace with one’s past are central to this story. Alienated First Nations protagonist Will, joins forces with a female cop to try to locate his missing sister, during a time when a serial killer seems to be hard at work, and authorities seem overwhelmed by the number of missing women reports. Director Treeshin was born in Yellowknife, but now makes Vancouver his home.
VOLITION (2019, Canada, Canadian Premiere, Directed by Tony Dean Smith)
This visually exciting thriller with sci-fi overtones tells the story of a clairvoyant man who tries to change fate when he intuits his own upcoming murder. Adrian Glynn McMorran heads an excellent cast featuring John Cassini, Alex Paunovic and Magda Apanowivz.
WFF’s lineup also welcomes films portraying women breaking the mold with the following titles.
QUEEN OF THE MORNING CALM (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Gloria Ui Young Kim)
Winner of the WIDC Feature Film Award at the 2016 Whistler Film Festival, the film stars Tina Jung (a regular on “Kim’s Convenience”) as a single mother whose life takes a downward turn when she loses her job as a stripper and gets evicted from her apartment. Unable to afford childcare, she brings her rambunctious 9-year-old daughter along to job interviews as she struggles to make ends meet.
SPINSTER (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Andrea Dorfman)
This is a story about a woman of a certain age who is feeling enormous pressure to settle down with the first man who wants to propose to her following a recent break-up. Featuring an incredibly engaging performance by Chelsea Peretti (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Parks and Recreation”), Gaby goes on a frenzied (and hilarious) dating spree, even as her dreams of turning a catering business into her own restaurant seem to become more and more elusive. A wonderful new film from the Maritimes.
In response to the legalization of marijuana that was enacted last year, WFF will be World Premiering two titles touching on this theme.
CANADIAN STRAIN (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Geordie Sabbagh)
This film could not be more topical. Jess Salgueiro stars as a low-level pot dealer who is put out of business when marijuana is legalized. She applies for a job at a government dispensary, assuming her “experience” will be welcomed by the feds. Let’s just say the best laid plans don’t always work out.
THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Craig Pryce)
Cult favourite Craig Pryce (REVENGE OF THE RADIOACTIVE REPORTER) tells the mostly forgotten but incredibly true story of a 1972 experiment conducted by the government to look into the ill effects of pot smoking on females. Young women were completely isolated for a 98 day trial experiment in which they were encouraged to smoke up, while remaining totally cut off from the outside world. Many of the subjects are still alive today, and the report was shelved when it did not conclude the way it was intended. A fascinating true life drama torn from the pages of Canadian history.
Other Canadian Premieres include these titles:
ENTANGLED (2019, Canada, Canadian Premiere, Director by Gaurav Seth)
An exciting sci-fi exercise in alternate universes. as four brilliant Quantum Physics students return from the other side with doppelgangers in tow. The problem is that it is energy-depleting for two versions of the same person to live in the same reality, but how the hell can you murder yourself? Stylish direction and a brilliant script will keep you guessing. Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin is featured in the cast.
THINGS I DO FOR MONEY (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Warren P. Sonoda)
From the director of the “Trailer Park Boys” comes an exciting thriller about music students who get involved with drug dealers. The climax is a brilliantly edited edge-of your-seat tour-de-force featuring real-life cello-playing twins, Theodor and Maximiliuan Aoki, in concert while mayhem occurs around them. Hitchcock would be proud.
WE HAD IT COMING (2019, Canada, Canadian Premiere, Directed by Paul Barbeau)
Featuring a pair of BC based actresses giving courageous performances (Natalie Krill and Alexia Fast) comes a story of two female lovers, who follow a pimp to Montreal after a younger sister of one of the protagonists commits suicide. Stylistically bold and completely original in its approach to the material, the face of the pimp/rapist is never shown, except in long shots and back of the head povs. This not only makes the predator seem more malevolent and explosively dangerous, it serves as a metaphor for toxic masculinity at its worst.
Rounding out our list of World Premieres are two documentaries.
ALONE ACROSS THE ARCTIC (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Francis Luta)
Mountain culture enthusiasts will relate to this tale of rugged northern survival, as explorer Adam Shoalts embarks on an estimated 4000 km journey across the Canadian Arctic by canoe and portage, in some of the harshest, most bug-infested terrain known to man. Who knew that boiling fir needles provides more vitamin C than an orange? Truly an incredible adventure.
CLOSING THE GAP: HOCKEY IN NORTH KOREA (2019, Canada, World Premiere, Directed by Nigel Edwards)
A fascinating look behind the communist veil at the training and aspirations of the ill-equipped and under-insured North Korean hockey team as they attempt to compete in the IIHF tournament in New Zealand. BC based filmmaker Nigel Edwards and his cohorts were given unprecedented access to the team, in this sometimes lyrical and sometimes jaw-dropping look at one of the most isolated cultures in the world, as seen through the perspective of Canada’s favorite sport.