You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Whistler Film Fest Shines Light on Underdogs and Emerging Talent

The Whistler Film Festival, which returns for its 17th iteration Nov. 29-Dec. 3, has often been referred to as the “coolest” film festival, but in some ways it can also be considered an outsider’s festival.

The fest strives to provide a particularly inclusive platform with this year’s lineup including 87 films from more than 15 countries, with 30% of the feature films directed by women.

“Whistler is obviously filling a vacuum in categories under-serviced by other Canadian film festivals,” says director of programming Paul Gratton, who sifted through more than 1,000 film submissions to make his picks, in addition to scouting fests around the world.

The festival is also known for its Canada-heavy programming, accounting for about two-thirds of all features.

“No other Canadian festival seems to be doing it at quite our level of engagement,” says Gratton. “But I don’t see that growing in future years beyond its current level. The non-Canadian portion of the festival keeps getting stronger every year, and is very important for our international reputation.”
The fest also seems to showcase pics about people who live on the fringe, including “I, Tonya,” about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie) and “The Disaster Artist,” James Franco’s take on the true-life story of Tommy Wiseau, the ultimate Hollywood outsider who refused to take ‘no’ for an answer and whose cult hit “The Room” has gone on to inspire many midnight screenings.

The WFF will open on a more somber note with Joe Wright’s drama “Darkest Hour,” starring Gary Oldman and Lily James. In some ways Winston Churchill, too, skirted the mainstream when he made the difficult choice to refuse a potential peace treaty with Nazi Germany during WWII and chose to fight the Germans in one of the most challenging wars in history.

Outsiders make for great cinema, and the festival looks to celebrate emerging talents with such films as Jared Moshe’s “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” with Bill Pullman; Carl Bessai’s “The Lears” with Bruce Dern and Anthony Michael Hall; Jordan Horowitz’s “Painless,” which centers on a man (Joey Klein) who is desperate to find a cure for a condition that renders him incapable of feeling physical pain; Kyra Sedgwick’s directorial debut, “Story of a Girl,” starring Kevin Bacon, and Ryann Shane; and “Bernard and Huey,” based on a Jules Feiffer script. Most of these, Gratton is quick to proudly note, are Canadian premieres.

“Our reputation as a cool celebration of emerging talent, Canadian or otherwise, seems to be spreading, certainly within North America,” he says. “I see Whistler as the film festival of opportunity.”

Gratton is also excited about the world premiere of the U.S. doc, “Becoming Iconic,” which revolves around the trials and travails of New York-based filmmaker Jonathan Baker working to get his first feature film made with stars Nicolas Cage, Gina Gershon and Faye Dunaway.

On the Canadian side the films include Pat Kiely’s “Someone Else’s Wedding” starring Jacob Tierney, Jessica Paré, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Kevin Zegers, Kathleen Turner and Wallace Shawn; Jackie English’s “Becoming Burlesque” about a Muslim woman turned burlesque dancer; Marshall Axani’s “The Cannon,” “Juggernaut” with Amanda Crew and Jack Kesy; and Carlos and Jason Sanchez’s debut feature “A Worthy Companion” starring Evan Rachel Wood. Other films include the dark thriller, “Trench 11,” starring Rossif Sutherland, and Ingrid Veninger’s “Porcupine Lake.”

The fest also has many development programs such as the Praxis Screenwriters Lab, Feature Project Lab, Aboriginal Filmmaker Fellowship, Digital First Lab, MPPIA Short Film Award Competition and Stars to Watch. There’s also a Music Showcase designed to connect musicians with music supervisors and industry execs.

Several programs focus specifically on women, including the Women in the Director’s Chair Industry Immersion, Women on Top Breakfast and the Women in Film & Television Vancouver Film Market Preparation mentorship initiative. The New York-based Alliance of Women Female Journalists EDA Awards will return to recognize female directors for narrative feature and short film.

Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch event also returns this year, with Variety vice president and executive editor Steven Gaydos in attendance to host a conversation and honor the following scribes: Liz Hannah, Taylor Allen & Andrew Logan, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, Maggie Betts, Tracy Oliver, Daniel Stiepleman, Dorothy Blyskal, Sarah Ruhl, Samuel V. Franco & Evan Kilgore and John Whittington.

The fest will also honor Kyra Sedgwick with an Artist Spotlight and Luminary Award and Bill Pullman with an Artist Tribute and Achievement Award. Also feted will be Canadians Amanda Crew, Kevin Zegers, Sutherland and Shiva Negar, who will be featured in a new Canada 150 Spotlight on Talent conversation hosted by TV and radio personality, George Stroumboulopoulos.

More Film

  • Audrey Wells

    Film News Roundup: Audrey Wells Scholarships Launched by UCLA, China's Pearl Studio

    In today’s film news roundup, Pearl Studio and UCLA start a “Say Yes!” scholarship in memory of Audrey Well; Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale are honored; and the “General Magic” documentary gets bought. SCHOLARSHIPS UNVEILED China’s Pearl Studio has made a gift of $100,000 for endowed scholarships to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and [...]

  • Honey Boy Knock Down the House

    Sundance Hot Titles List: 13 Buzzy Films That Have Buyers Talking

    There’s a good reason that much of Hollywood braves the thin mountain air each year to make the trek to the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s not to check out the nearby ski slopes. The annual launch of the indie film gathering brings with it the possibility of discovering the next big thing in moviemaking. [...]

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    Will Oscar Nominations Give This Year's Contenders a Box Office Boost?

    With nominees like “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star Is Born,” the 2018 class of movies proved the Oscars don’t need a popular films category to recognize movies that also made bank in theaters. But now that the academy has selected this year’s crop of awards hopefuls, is there any green left to squeeze [...]

  • A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's

    Sundance: A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's Romance-Drama 'The Souvenir'

    A24 has bought the North American rights to Tilda Swinton’s romance-drama “The Souvenir – Part 2,” closing the deal on the eve of the Sundance Film Festival. “The Souvenir” is set to make its world premiere at Sundance on Jan. 27, followed by playing in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival in February. [...]

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    Chiwetel Ejiofor Adds Authenticity to Directorial Debut by Shooting in Malawi

    When actor Chiwetel Ejiofor optioned the rights for the 2009 best-seller “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” penning the screenplay for a feature directorial debut that world-premieres in Sundance and then appears in the Berlin Film Festival before being released globally by Netflix this spring, colleagues floated the idea of shooting the Malawi-set film in tried-and-tested [...]

  • ally billboard a star is born

    Oscar Campaign Spending Reaches New Heights in Competitive Season

    The escalating cost of awards campaigning may reach an all-time high this season as heavyweights such as “Roma” and “A Star Is Born” battle for Oscar gold. The quest for an Academy Award has always been expensive, but Netflix’s hunger to nab its first best picture win, coupled with the presence of legitimate studio contenders [...]

  • The Wizard of Oz

    'The Wizard of Oz' to Return to Theaters for 80th Anniversary

    “The Wizard of Oz” is returning to theaters this weekend for a special limited engagement marking the 80th anniversary of the film’s Hollywood premiere. Fathom Events, TCM, and Warner Bros. are re-releasing the beloved family film in select theaters across the country beginning on Sunday, Jan. 27, with additional dates on Tuesday, Jan. 29, and Wednesday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content