From screen, to stage, to in conversation 

The Whistler Film Festival returns with a treasure Trove of talent and dozens of films

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Oscar Worthy Jessica Chastain is searing as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist in Miss Sloane, which has three screenings at this year's Whistler Film Festival.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Oscar Worthy Jessica Chastain is searing as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist in Miss Sloane, which has three screenings at this year's Whistler Film Festival.

So... which films are you going to see?

It's the 16th annual Whistler Film Festival (WFF) and 86 are being screened — 50 features and 36 shorts.

On top of this is the opportunity to sit in on In Conversation interviews with talented heavy hitters in the movie industry.

Oscar-winning British director John Madden, coming to Whistler with his latest film Miss Sloane, will be the Variety In Conversation on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre.

Miss Sloane is screening on Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2 at 3:30 p.m. (both at Rainbow Theatre) and Sunday, Dec. 4, at 10 p.m. (Village 8 Cinemas)

Canadian actor Alan Thicke is the WFF Signature Series' Tribute honouree and will be in conversation on Friday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre.

Thicke is bringing his film It's Not My Fault and I Don't Care Anyway, which premieres on Friday, Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2:45 p.m. (Both at Village 8 Cinemas.)

And acclaimed Canadian director Deepa Mehta is being honoured with a WFF Trailblazer Award. Mehta is attending Whistler in support of her film Anatomy of Violence (See below).

WFF executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw says this year's filmmaking talent will show audiences what the festival is all about.

"They are making up the stories, they are producing and directing them, adding music and performing," Hardy Mishaw says.

"They're a very important part of the culture of this business. This is why we are a cool film festival, because the filmmakers are coming."

She adds that the lineup is WFF's strongest yet.

And as the main festival runs, the WFF Industry Summit is bringing together top talent from behind scenes.

"There are over 400 people coming who are related to these films. And we have 20 heavy hitters from the industry coming, including executive directors of Telefilm and the Canadian Media Fund, Entertainment One, and Bell Media. They are influential in this business," Hardy Mishaw says.

"There is representation from all the distributors, too. As a festival where filmmakers meet filmmakers, this is the place to be right now. We've been trying for years to get some of the people here and now they are coming."

Several of the films being shown at WFF are Oscar contenders — the Nov. 30 Opening Gala screening of La La Land, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, sold out.

Other contenders include Miss Sloane, starring Jessica Chastain; Lion, starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara; and 20th Century Women, starring Annette Bening and Billy Crudup.

Bringing it

International and Canadian filmmakers are telling a multitude of stories to WWF this year. Here are some of the notables:

• Toronto director Deepa Mehta is in town with her new feature Anatomy of Violence to Whistler and is the chair of the 2016 Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature, with 19 films competing this year for Canada's second-largest festival prize.

She says she is "blown away" by the diversity of filmmaking talent coming to WFF and says Canadian filmmakers seem more confident and energetic.

Anatomy of Violence is an innovative docudrama approach to analyzing rape culture in India, looking at poverty, misogyny and male entitlement of the six rapists who attacked a young woman on a bus.

It is being shown at the Rainbow Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 4:30 p.m.

"Anatomy of Violence is about the waste of life," Mehta says.

"It's an enormous issue in the world everywhere. You can pick one place to tell the story but it has to be universal at the same time. I had been thinking about this attack for three years and then I decided that I wanted to widen the conversation, trying to get a glimpse of or trying to understand what makes monsters."

The winners of the best film, acting, directing and filmmaking categories of the Borsos Awards will be announced at the festival's closing breakfast on Sunday, Dec. 4.

• Documentary filmmaker Michael Savoie's behind-the-scenes exploration of the creative process of Academy Award-winning Vancouver director John Zaritsky, Mr. Zaritsky on TV, gets its world premiere at WFF.

Savoie has worked with Zaritsky over the years and the latter's three-film passion project on thalidomide victims.

Zaritsky is a well-known former Whistlerite, screening Ski Bums during the first WFF in 2000.

"I wanted to make a film about the life I've led and about the journey of a documentary crew," Savoie says.

"And I didn't want to make a straight biography of John. If you know John and his quirks and idiosyncrasies, he was the perfect person. It really is the story of a documentary crew as seen through his eyes.

"If you like film and how they're made, especially documentaries, this is what you will get."

Mr. Zaritsky on TV will be screened on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7:45 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre, and on Friday, Dec. 2, at 12:30 p.m. at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre.

• Mike Douglas, Whistler filmmaker and winner of the WFF Mountain Culture award in 2014, has two shorts at the festival: Guilt Trip and The Highway. The former is the subject of an interview with Leslie Anthony (see page 37).

The Highway has a poignant Sea to Sky connection, telling the story of the aftermath of a serious fatal accident on Highway 99, north of Lions Bay.

Whistler resident Olivia Rey was left a quadriplegic and her friend died in the crash. As Rey's brother, renowned skier Stan Rey, made multiple trips to visit her in hospital, he would pass the Tantalus Mountain range and dream of skiing it.

The Highway tells the story of his decision to try to accomplish this feat.

Douglas says: "This was the most emotional story I've ever been involved with. It's definitely a bit of a tearjerker."

Douglas' films are being shown together Thursday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre and on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 5:30 p.m. at Village 8 Cinemas.

• Former NHL player Theo Fleury, the star of the documentary Victor Walk, is coming to WFF, along with the film's director Michael David Lynch.

The film talks about the Victor Movement, which began as a way to create awareness of and heal those who have been harmed by childhood sexual abuse; Fleury was the victim of attacks by his coach as a young hockey player.

Fleury is being honoured at WFF with a Humanitarian Award, on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre.

Victor Walk shows on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre, and Friday, Dec. 2 at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre at 3 p.m.

Pique sports editor Dan Falloon interviews Fleury and Lynch in this issue (see page 48).

The Whistler Film Festival runs until Sunday, Dec. 4. For more information on WFF, tickets and schedules, visit www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.

The box office for tickets and other information is located in front of the main entrance to the Whistler Conference Centre.

An interview with John Madden will run in the next issue of Pique.

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