The winner of the 2020 Whistler Film Festival (WFF) Audience Award is The Paper Man (Lafortune en papier) directed and produced by journalist Tanya Lapointe, which received its world premiere at the fest as well as an honorable mention in WFF’s World Documentary Competition. This is an affectionate look at Claude Lafortune, Quebec’s own version of Mr. Rogers, who was a staple of French-Canadian television bringing his inspirational story and beautiful paper sculptures to life. The beloved children’s television host inspired generations of children through his celebration of creativity, inclusivity and diversity. For over five decades, he dedicated his life to transforming mere paper into whimsical sculptures, creatures and film sets. The Paper Man reveals the depths of Claude Lafortune’s work, as well as his continuing legacy. The gentle, compassionate and truly humble folk artist Lafortune passed away in April at the age of 83 after contracting COVID-19.
The WFF Audience Award runner-up went to Marlene, an important Canadian historical story about an extraordinary woman, directed with passion by Wendy Hill-Tout who co-wrote the film with Cathy Ostlere,which received its national festival VOD premiere at the festival and tells the true-life story of Steven Truscott’s wife, who spent her life seeking to legally exonerate her husband for a rape/murder he did not commit. Too few Canadian films have focused on true heroic figures like Erin Brockovich: the kinds of people who will not take “no” for an answer, and devote their lives to the pursuit of justice. Marlene Truscott is such a person, and this inspirational film is a tribute to her courage and determination.
The WFF Audience Award is a non-cash prize presented to the highest-rated film as voted by the audience, and for three consecutive years has been awarded to a female director.
WFF Director of Film Programming Paul Gratton stated: “This year’s Audience Award winner, The Paper Man, is a rare documentary to score such a high rating with appreciative audiences. This loving biodoc on Quebec TV personality Claude Lafortune was a labour of love for director Tanya Lapointe, whose central thesis was that Mr. Lafortune was an authentic and original artist, working in the medium of paper sculptures. WFF was proud to present the world premiere of this moving documentary and was pleased to note that the universally positive response to this film came from across Canada. Similarly, our runner-up Wendy Hill-Tout’s Marlene came online near the latter part of our twenty-day roll-out, but audiences responded with unvarnished enthusiasm to this true-life story of Steven Truscott’s wife, who never wavered in her decades’ long quest to prove her husband was innocent of a horrible crime. A rare tale of Canadian heroism, designed to get online audiences to jump up and cheer.”