WFF: Better than ever 

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Movies Galore The Whistler Film Festival returns with 50 feature films, 15 by women.
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  • Movies Galore The Whistler Film Festival returns with 50 feature films, 15 by women.

It's the best week of the year for movie fans as the 16th Whistler Film Festival (WFF) hits screens all across town — but first let's start with the Punk Rock Download of the week: The Punk Singer, a 2013 film about Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna, probably the best-known figure of the 1990s Riot Grrl subgenre. Compiled from 20 years of archival footage, interviews and concert footage, The Punk Singer documents the rise of one of the most important feminist voices of its era, one who grabbed the industry by the balls and demanded to be heard. Capturing the essence of Hanna's strength and punk rock-ness (she coined the phrase "smells like teen spirit" for Kurt Cobain), The Punk Singer also shines light into an era of musical, artistic and gender empowerment.

While gender barriers certainly still exist within the Hollywood film system, things seem on the up and up. Of the 50 features at the Whistler Film Festival, 15 are directed by women, including Melody Makers: Should've Been There — a behind-the-scenes look at legendary British music magazine Melody Maker. Equal parts nostalgia and '70s rock gods, this one is a good way to kick off your weekend.

Another doc worth checking out is Mr. Zaritsky on TV, which follows Oscar-winning filmmaker John Zaritsky as he tours Europe filming a doc about thalidomide victims. Known locally as Johnny Amsterdam, Zaritsky is a punk-rock filmmaker who shoots fast, pulls no punches, takes no shit from TV executives, and gets deep into the truth of his subject matter. Shot locally in 2000, Zaritsky's Ski Bums was the opening film of the very first Whistler Film Festival and it's nice to have him back in his second home. The dude is a Canadian legend.

Another legendary director, Deepa Mehta is in town with her latest, Anatomy of Violence, a docu-drama style flick examining the links between poverty, misogyny and rape culture in India. Mehta never pulls her punches either.

Lion stars Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as a young man with a need to rediscover his roots after being separated from his family at age five. An Australia/UK/American production, this one also stars Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara, and is on track to be a favourite this awards season. See it here first!

Canadian-made and straight outta the prairies, Chokeslam features the unlikely combination of romantic comedy and professional wrestling as a nerdy deli clerk hits up his 10-year high school reunion and reconnects with Sheena, the object of his obsession. Except now she's a professional wrestler and all-around ass-kicker named "Smasheena." Let the hijinks commence.

WFF Late-Night screenings are always a treat and this year's top splatter flick is The Void, about a remote hospital under attack from alien zombie something-or-others. From the makers of Manborg, this one mixes claustrophobic horror with head-smashing action and looks like a good way to end your evening.

There are still regular Hollywood flicks playing at the illustrious Whistler Village 8, including Disney's Moana, one of the best family flicks of the year. Set on the seas of the Polynesian Pacific, Moana is about an adventurous teenager on a mission to save her people and recover a precious talisman lost by the god Maui (voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who's en route to being Hollywood's most bankable star).

The visuals of Moana are incredible, the story and characters are on point (great bad guys and a treasure-hoarding crab that might be one of the year's best supporting roles), and the chieftain's daughter is not only voiced by a Hawaiian actress, she's also proportioned somewhat like a real teenager. These tiny victories are steps in the right direction, and the fact that Moana is making big money for Disney helps as well. Moana is a musical cartoon and the songs are certainly not punk rock, but she's got the right attitude.

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