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The Lost Daughter directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal
The Lost Daughter directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal

Whistler Film Festival (WFF) announced the full film lineup of 81 epic, bold and inspiring films, for its 21st edition with a hybrid offering of online and in-theatre screenings. 20 of 40 features and 25 of 41 shorts directed or co-directed by women or non-binary individuals.

The Whistler Film Festival Opening Night film will set the tone for this year’s festival with the Canadian Premiere of THE LOST DAUGHTER, a truly independent-spirited feature debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal, who won the Best Screenplay Award at the 78th Venice International Film Festival and features a fantastic lead performance by Olivia Colman as a woman who never really felt comfortable being a mother, alongside Ed Harris and Dakota Johnson. Closing the festival will be the North American Premiere of the Austrian biopic of 1976 Olympic gold medal ski racer Franz Klammer, CHASING THE LINE. This dramatic feature recreates the excitement of Innsbruck in 1976.

Other films on the lineup include from the deliciously sweet story of a refugee family carving out a new life in a new home (PEACE BY CHOCOLATE) to thought-provoking perspectives on mental illness (LUNE) and assisted death (MOON MANOR), WFF21 films share perspectives across cultures (EVELYNE, ALTAR BOY), highlight LGBTQ stories (DAWN HER DAD AND THE TRACTOR, MOON MANOR, PAT ROCCO DARED), Indigenous stories (TZOUHALEM, RUN WOMAN RUN, PRECIOUS LEADER WOMAN), environmentalism and more.

The 18th annual Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature returns with the country’s second-largest festival prize. 15 Canadian films will contend for the five coveted Borsos Competition awards that honor Canadian filmmaking talent and is a bellwether for future accolades.

Titles in competition include the World Premieres of Serville Pobelte’s first time Filipino-Canadian coming-of-age feature ALTAR BOY; CARMEN, a sun-dappled Canada/Malta coproduction featuring Natascha McElhone and directed by Valerie Buhagiar; CONFESSIONS OF A HITMAN, a true story about a biker gang assassin responsible for 28 murders in Quebec over 25 years, starring and directed by Luc Picard; EVELYNE, a tender story of an African immigrant finding a friend in Vancouver starring Zimbabwean actress Rumbie Muzofa and, director Carl Bessai himself, and the controversial INÈS, a tale of paternal abuse directed by Renée Beaulieu and starring Roy Dupuis and Rosalie Bonenfant.

National Festival VOD Premieres in the Borsos Competition include CINEMA OF SLEEP directed by Jeffrey St. Jules, a dreamlike thriller set in a motel room from the director of BANG BANG BABY (WFF 2014); DRINKWATER, Stephen Campanelli’s funny BC-set coming-of-age story, featuring Eric McCormack; LUNE starring and directed by Aviva Armour-Ostroff & co-directed by Arturo Perez Torres, a sometimes humorous and touching look at bipolar disorder and apartheid; L’INHUMAIN directed by Jason Brennan, the first genre film shot entirely in French by an Indigenous production team; and RUN WOMAN RUN directed by Zoe Hopkins, a frequently funny Indigenous feature about a slovenly diabetic girl who is inspired to train for foot races and get in shape by the spirit of an ancestor.

English Canadian premieres in the Borsos Competition include NOUVEAU QUÉBEC directed by Sarah Fortin, about a couple’s trip to sell the chalet she has inherited from her father in Schefferville, a dying Northern Quebec mining community; and THE NOISE OF ENGINES (LE BRUIT DES MOTEURS), winner of the Quebecor Prize at the recent Festival du nouveau cinéma and directed by Philippe Grégoire, about a border patrol officer who returns home after a sex scandal.

The Canadian Premiere of WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, is not only actor Katie Boland’s directorial debut, she also plays twin sisters who mostly can’t stand each other. Boland wrote the screenplay based on the book by Amy Jones.

Borsos Competition National VOD Festival Premieres include DAWN, HER DAD & THE TRACTOR, a first film directed by Shelley Thompson and featuring transgender actor (Maya V. Henry, with over 200,000 YouTube subscribers) in the lead role of a Maritimer who leaves as a man and returns home as Dawn for her mother’s funeral. PEACE BY CHOCOLATE by director Jonathan Keijser is a warm-hearted ode to immigration done right, as it tells the true-life story of a family of Syrian refugees who attempt to open a chocolate factory in their new adoptive Maritime home. It will premiere online on Christmas Day following in-theatre runs on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 in Whistler.

WFF’s Special Presentations feature some of the strongest titles in this year’s festival. THE CARD COUNTER, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish, is another classic story of an outsider seeking redemption from the writer of RAGING BULL and TAXI DRIVER. It is also nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Actor at this year’s Gotham Awards. Paolo Sorrentino’s THE HAND OF GOD, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival, is a coming-of-age story set in tumultuous Naples in the 1980s. Jane Campion’s first film in twelve years, THE POWER OF THE DOG, is a Cain and Abel-type western featuring acclaimed performances by Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, and Kirsten Dunst. It was recognized with the Silver Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival.

WFF will present an exciting line-up of ten documentaries, many of them with a focus on women’s issues.

Titles include A WICKED EDEN directed by Naddine Madell, a wickedly intelligent look at the women who run online femdom porn sites, with a particular focus on Goddess Alexandra Snow; POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHE, a biography of punk icon Marianne Joan Elliott-Said (stage name Poly Styrene), directed by her daughter Celeste Bell (with Paul Sng); $AVVY, a must-see documentary on how women can attain financial independence, directed by Robin Hauser; PRECIOUS LEADER WOMAN directed by Cassie De Colling, a biography of Whistler local, Indigenous snowboarder Spencer O’Brien and how she copes when rheumatoid arthritis disrupts her competitive career; and the World Premiere of THE SECRET SOCIETY directed by Rebecca Campbell, about the illegal lengths that Canadian women have to go to if they wish to purchase third-party eggs to help them overcome infertility. A shocking exposé of a practice that is legal in most other countries.

Other documentaries include THE SOUND OF US, directed by Chris Gero, a reminder of the importance of music in our lives and how we have missed it over the last two years, with interviews and riveting performances with the likes of Patti Smith and Sarah MacLachlan; TZOUHALEM, directed by Harold C. Joe & Leslie D. Bland, a stunning documentary using animation and archive/interview material to tell the story of the fiercest Cowichan Chief warrior to ever wage battle along the BC coast; the World Premiere of PAT ROCCO DARED made by the Vancouver-based team of Morris Chapdelaine and Bob Christie, that sheds light on a veritable pioneer of gay filmmaking who was responsible for the first commercially released gay films seen by the general public and the first on-screen kiss between two men; Robert Carr’s DIFFERENT JOHNS looks at iconoclast John Cohen, who chronicled Appalachian roots music, photographed early Bob Dylan and was part of the Beat Generation group with Jack Kerouac et al.; and BURIED, every skier’s nightmare, this documentary chronicles a major avalanche and its after-effects at the Alpine Meadows ski resort, directed by Jared Drake and Steven Siig.

The Films From Away strand features ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME (UK) directed by Andrew Gaynord, a dark British comedy, picked up by Neon Pictures in the US; GAGARINE (France) a bit of magical realism set in a housing development about to be torn down that our last remaining squatter wants to turn into a spaceship, directed by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh, winners of the Best Director Award at the Athens International Film Festival; and, THE PINK CLOUD (Brazil) a prophetic study of a couple who just met, forced to live together over a long period of time due to lockdown measures in South America. A Grand Prix winner at the Sofia International Film Festival, it is directed by Iuli Gerbase.

WFF’s American Indies strand is particularly cutting-edge and inventive this year. Films include: 18 ½, a fun thriller about a young woman who comes to possess the missing audio recording from the notorious Nixon Tapes directed by WFF favourite Dan Mirvish; JOCKEY, directed by Clint Bentley, featuring extraordinary performances by Clifton Collins Jr. (who won a Special Jury award for Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival) and Molly Parker, a story of an aging horse jockey done in the style of THE RIDER; LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE three vignettes about female relationships, starring Kathy Baker, Rosanna Arquette, Cybill Shepherd and Rita Wilson, directed by Eleanor Coppola; MOON MANOR directed by filmmaking duo Kniferock (Erin Granat & Machete Bang Bang), a surprisingly joyous celebration of a gay man’s life as witnessed by friends invited to his assisted death “fun-eral”; MY DEAD DAD directed by Fabio Frey, in which a young skateboarder inherits a property from his estranged Dad and comes to see him in a whole different light through the eyes of his tenants; and THIS IS NOT A WAR STORY, a searing drama that really gets under your skin, as war vets suffering from PTSD find solace in community and in art projects, insightfully directed by Talia Lugacy.

Mountain Culture selections comprise two competing documentaries, BURIED and PRECIOUS LEADER WOMAN and the Festival’s CLOSING NIGHT film CHASING THE LINE. Additional competing entries can be found in the Mountain Culture Shorts program featuring six titles.

WFF also unveiled six ShortWorks programs consisting of 41 short films from Canada and around the world that highlight the creativity, diversity, and strength of storytelling in the short form. The program kicks off with celebrated filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk’s mesmerizing animated work “Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice”, which has already won top prizes at TIFF, ImagiNATIVE, and Ottawa International Animation Film Festivals. ShortWorks features rising Canadian stars, including new work from CSA-recognized filmmakers Alicia K. Harris, Omolola Rachel Ajao, Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers, Carmine Pierre-Dufour, and Lee Filipovski, and an expanded selection of international films representing an impressive 13 countries.

Shining a spotlight on BC talent with 19 shorts at the fest, the festival will present the World Premieres of alumni Heather Perluzzo’s MPPIA award-winning script “Wildflower”; Cam MacArthur’s new documentary “Before They Fall”; Tesh Guttikonda’s Crazy8s production “Mom Vs Machine”; as well as debuts from producer Mack Stannard (“Joe Buffalo”) and student filmmakers Ashley Yeung, and Arturo LeDuc.

Whistler Film Festival 2021 Complete Feature Film Listing by Strand

Opening Night

THE LOST DAUGHTER (USA, UK, Greece, Israel) Directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal

Closing Night

CHASING THE LINE (Germany) Directed by Andreas Schmied

American Indies

18 ½ (USA) Directed by Dan Mirvish

JOCKEY (USA) Directed by Clint Bentley

LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE (USA) Directed by Eleanor Coppola

MOON MANOR (USA) Directed by Kniferock (Erin Granat & Machete Bang Bang)

MY DEAD DAD (USA) Directed by Fabio Frey

THIS IS NOT A WAR STORY (USA) Directed by Talia Lugacy

Special Presentation

THE CARD COUNTER (USA) Directed by Paul Schrader

THE HAND OF GOD (Italy) Directed by Paolo Sorrentino

THE POWER OF THE DOG (Australia, New Zealand) Directed by Jane Campion

Canadian Vanguard

CARMEN (Canada, Malta) Directed by Valerie Buhagiar

CINEMA OF SLEEP (Canada) Directed by Jeffrey St. Jules

CONFESSIONS OF A HITMAN (Canada) Directed by Luc Picard

DRINKWATER (Canada) Directed by Stephen Campanelli

EVELYNE (Canada) Directed by Carl Bessai

INÈS (Canada) Directed by Renée Beaulieu

RUN WOMAN RUN (Canada) Directed by Zoe Hopkins

Doc Bloc

A WICKED EDEN (Canada) Directed by Naddine Madell

BURIED (USA) Directed by Jared Drake & Steven Siig

DIFFERENT JOHNS (UK) Directed by Robert Carr

PAT ROCCO DARED (Canada) Directed by Bob Christie, Morris Chapdelaine

POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHÉ (UK) Directed by Celeste Bell & Paul Sng

PRECIOUS LEADER WOMAN (Canada) Directed by Cassie De Colling

$AVVY (USA) Directed by Robin Hauser

THE SECRET SOCIETY (Canada) Directed by Rebecca Campbell

THE SOUND OF US (United States) Directed by Chris Gero

TZOUHALEM (Canada) Directed by Harold C. Joe & Leslie D. Bland

From the Vault

BIX: “AIN’T NONE OF THEM PLAY LIKE HIM YET” (Canada) Directed by Brigitte Berman

Films From Away

ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME (UK) Directed by Andrew Gaynord

CHASING THE LINE (Germany) Directed by Andreas Schmied

GAGARINE (France) Directed by Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh

THE PINK CLOUD (Brazil) Directed by Iuli Gerbase

New Voices

ALTAR BOY (Canada) Directed by Serville Poblete

DAWN, HER DAD & THE TRACTOR (Canada) Directed by Shelley Thompson

LUNE (Canada) Directed by Aviva Armour-Ostroff & Arturo Perez Torres

L’INHUMAIN (Canada) Directed by Jason Brennan

NOUVEAU QUÉBEC (Canada) Directed by Sarah Fortin

PEACE BY CHOCOLATE (Canada) Directed by Jonathan Keijser

THE NOISE OF ENGINES (LE BRUITS DES MOTEURS) (Canada, Iceland) Directed by Philippe Grégoire

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER (Canada) Directed by Katie Boland

Mountain Culture

BURIED (USA) Directed by Jared Drake & Steven Siig

CHASING THE LINE (Germany) Directed by Andreas Schmied

MOUNTAIN CULTURE SHORTS PROGRAMME

PRECIOUS LEADER WOMAN (Canada) Directed by Cassie De Colling

WFF 2021 Feature Films Eligible for the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature

ALTAR BOY

CARMEN

CINEMA OF SLEEP

CONFESSIONS OF A HITMAN

DAWN, HER DAD, & THE TRACTOR

DRINKWATER

EVELYNE

INÈS

L’INHUMAIN

LUNE

NOUVEAU QUÉBEC

PEACE BY CHOCOLATE

RUN WOMAN RUN

THE NOISE OF ENGINES (LES BRUITS DES MOTEURS)

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

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