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Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog
Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog. [Cr. Kirsty Griffin/NETFLIX © 2021]

Whistler Film Festival unveiled the first of many Canadian and International titles coming to Whistler in 2021, including The Power of the Dog, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Directed by Academy Award Winner Jane Campion (The Piano), in her first feature film in twelve years, The Power of the Dog tells the story of charismatic rancher Phil Burbank who inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.

“After a challenging year where we truly innovated, researched and reimagined our festival, we’re thrilled to be able to present a hybrid festival experience and welcome our film fans and filmmaker community back to Whistler to enjoy films in theatre while also bringing our online national audience along for the ride,” says Angela Heck, WFF Executive Director. “As always, our lineup spotlights new regional, national, and international cinematic talent and amplifies diverse voices while offering connections to the industry through the Content Summit and Talent Programs. We’re excited to connect our audiences with the energy and vitality of independent film.”

Plans are underway to present the 21st edition of Whistler Film Festival as a hybrid, online and in-person, event from December 1 to 31, 2021.

Films

THE POWER OF THE DOG 2021 | Australia, New Zealand | Whistler Theatrical Premiere | Directed by Jane Campion with Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Brilliantly directed by Academy Award Winner Jane Campion (THE PIANO), in her first feature film in twelve years, THE POWER OF THE DOG is a western set in the 1920s that tells the story of a Cain and Abel-type rivalry between two very different brothers. Beautifully lensed in New Zealand, we are pleased to present this major awards-contender on the big screen, leading off what will be an extraordinarily strong year for female-directed films at Whistler.

In addition, the following World Premiere titles will be presented for the first time ever at the Whistler Film Festival this year. Five of the titles will be 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.

ALTAR BOY 2021 | Canada | World Premiere | Directed by Serville Poblete, with Mark Bacolcol, Shai Barcia and Emily Beattie

A truly warm-hearted first-time feature captures all the tentativeness and joy that comes with a first true love experience. Daniel Garcia (Mark Bacolcol, also the writer of the film) is a Filipino-Canadian teen who loves basketball but has to deal with an overbearing and deeply religious mother, even while he tries to navigate the treacherous shoals of high school. He has a bad crush on outgoing student Summer Stevens, but many pitfalls block their way, from petty crime, unexpected tragedy and parental expectations. Everyone will be able to relate to this charmer.

CARMEN 2021 | Canada, Malta | World Premiere | Directed by Valerie Buhagiar, with Natascha McElhone and Richard Clarkin

This is perhaps veteran director Valerie Buhagiar’s most joyous film outing yet. Set in a sun-dappled village in Malta in the 1980s, Natascha McElhone gives what is perhaps a career-best performance as a 50-year-old woman who finds a new start in life through romance. Through a set of odd circumstances, she finds herself hearing confessions in a local church, to the delight of many parishioners and the horror of the authorities. McElhone is simply radiant in the lead role, and you will long to visit Malta after you see this one.

CONFESSIONS OF A HITMAN 2021 | Canada | World Premiere | Directed by and starring Luc Picard, with David La Haye and Sandrine Bisson

This is the incredible but true story of a paid assassin who worked for the biker gangs in Quebec, turning informant when convenient but responsible for over 28 “hits” over 25 years. Seemingly a bit dull-witted, this stuttering “average Joe” outsmarted police and the criminal underground in Quebec for decades. One of Quebec’s finest actors, Luc Picard, gives an unforgettable performance as Gerald Gallant, Canada’s own version of “THE IRISHMAN,” if you will.

EVELYNE 2021 | Canada | World Premiere | Directed by Carl Bessai, with Rumbie Muzofa and Carl Bessai

Zimbabwean-Canadian actress Rumbie Muzofa shines as a recent emigree from Africa, coping with the challenges of trying to survive in her new country. From an abusive boyfriend to would-be employers who will only hire her with “conditions” attached, she is taken in by a very kindly caretaker of a local apartment building, who gives her extra time to pay the rent and tries to help out in other ways. Director Carl Bessai, who has probably graced the WFF with more impressive BC-based features than any other director, surprisingly plays Gary the friendly caretaker himself. His character is a model of gentleness, compassion and empathy, characteristics to which all Canadians will hopefully aspire, especially after seeing this one.

INÈS 2021 | Canada | World Premiere | Directed by Renée Beaulieu, with Roy Dupuis and Rosalie Bonenfant

Quebec leading actor Roy Dupuis is mainly known for portraying heroic figures such as Romeo Dallaire in SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (2007) and Maurice Richard in THE ROCKET (2005). Here, he will stun you with his portrayal of a sexually abusive father who continues to try to psychologically dominate his twenty-year-old daughter as she struggles to break free of his lifelong influence. Director Renée Beaulieu is fearless when tackling controversial subject matter, as evident in her 2018 Borsos entry, THE NATURALLY WANTON PLEASURE OF SKIN (LES SALOPES). It is impossible not to be deeply moved and troubled, as you witness young Inès try to break away from her shattered past in order to start a new life.

THE SECRET SOCIETY 2021 | Canada | World Premiere | Directed by Rebecca Campbell

Leading off an incredible line-up of documentaries focusing on women’s issues at this year’s WFF, Rebecca Campbell’s eye-opening feature shines a light on a particularly Canadian women’s health crisis. Canadian women who wish to hire an egg donor to deal with infertility can be charged for breaking Canadian law, an activity which is perfectly legal south of the border. Meet the courageous women who are trying to help women caught up in this situation by lobbying to have the laws changed, finding loopholes that may come with hefty price tags, and the women who have to shop overseas for eggs that they cannot legally access on Canadian soil. The goal is to reform the Assisted Reproduction laws in Canada, and this complex social issue is thoroughly examined from all sides in this comprehensive and surprising documentary.

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