Don’t wait for the DVD 

Whistler Film Festival’s Reel Alternative Series frames up indie films

By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: Reel Alternative Series

What: Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing

When: Wednesday, Feb. 7, 7 & 9 p.m.

Where: Village 8 Cinemas

Tickets: $8.50/$6.50

Ever tire of watching Hollywood formula flicks on the big screen that leave little to the imagination, much less grist for a discussion afterwards?

The Whistler Film Festival and Village 8 Cinemas jump start bubble gum film fare with an exciting lineup for the winter/spring 2007 Reel Alternatives Independent Film Series that includes everything from documentaries and Academy-Award nominees to high-profile international films and Canadian films not getting the recognition they deserve.

“The idea behind Reel Alternatives is to keep in touch with our audiences throughout the year,” said Bill Evans, festival director of programming. “We are trying to build a community; people who are interested in having a dialogue about these films… It gives people a chance to come out twice a month to see some interesting films they normally wouldn’t have a chance to see.”

Reel Alternatives presents films every second Wednesday night starting Feb. 7, with most showings at 7 and 9 p.m. at Village 8 Cinemas.

Whistlerites love their documentaries, so Reel Alternatives gets audiences psyched right from the start with two compelling chronicles.

The series gets reel with the controversial Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing Feb. 7. Barbara Koppel follows the Dixie Chicks as they battle controversy in the wake of singer Natalie Maine’s anti-George W. Bush statements.

Manufactured Landscapes will be the second documentary of the series, screened Feb. 21. Evans said the film, which follows an award-winning photographer documenting the environmental impact of massive projects of industrialization around the world, should spur discussion around our own sustainability issues.

Manufactured Landscapes is one of the few Canadian films that made it into the Sundance Film Festival,” Evans said. “I think it will be of interest to Whistler… It will have us look at our own imprint on the environment.”

The theme of relationships runs in the next two presentations, Little Children March 7 and The Lives of Others March 21.

Little Children , with director Todd Field at the helm, particularly caught Evan’s attention. Field was director of another cinema success, In the Bedroom.

“This one promises to be similar in the exploration of the dark side of relationships,” Evans said. “There are some great performances from Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley.”

The film, about a group of young married couples whose lives intersect, was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Winslet for Best Actress, Earle Haley for Best Supporting Actor, and Field and Tom Perotta for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Lives of Others was also nominated for an Academy Award, in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The nail-biting thriller, about a prominent couple in the former East Germany and the Stasi secret police agent who is spying on them, was also nominated for a Golden Globe.

“( The Lives of Others ) won every possible award in Germany; it was also very popular at the Toronto and Vancouver film festivals,” Evans said.

The series wraps up with films from two Canadian directors who Evans feels haven’t got the attention they deserve: Carl Bessai for Unnatural and Accidental April 11 and Reginald Harkema for Monkey Warfare April 25.

Actor Don McKellar, who is no stranger to visiting the Whistler Film Festival, stars in Monkey Warfare as one of two ex-revolutionaries living underground in Toronto whose lives are transformed after meeting a woman with urban-guerilla aspirations of her own.

Bessai’s Unnatural and Accidental film also has a homegrown connection, drawing audiences into a story inspired by true events about a young aboriginal woman who searches for her mother in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and gets drawn into the mysteries of 10 missing aboriginal women stalked by a serial killer.

Reel Alternative films run the gamut of genres and subject matter leaving plenty of room for post-show coffee house discussions. Film Fest organizers are looking at developing film discussion groups in the future.

Tickets are $8.50 or $6.50 with a Whistler Film Festival membership. Memberships are $4 and include discounts on tickets as well as at Three Below restaurant.

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