For the first time in its 14-year history the iF3 Film Festival will be holding its gala and awards ceremony in Whistler.
The international ski and snowboard film festival has held screenings in Whistler before in 2015, 2018 and 2019, but the awards ceremony has always been reserved for the festival’s home in Montreal.
But with the steady growth of the festival over the last few years and COVID- 19 restrictions making out-of-country travel a challenge for many filmmakers, president of iF3 Luke St-Jacques thought this was the perfect year to expand the festival to a new location.
“We are now in 2021, and we decided to do it [in Whistler because] a lot of the athletes and producers from around the world and in Canada decided to stay home to film this year,” he says.
“A lot of them stayed around their backyard, and ski and snowboard Hollywood is situated right at Whistler, so there is a lot of great athletes and producers that are there right now, that have lived there for the last two months, that will be able to be at the gala for the first time in a couple years, physically.”
St-Jacques took over as president of the festival in 2017, the same year snowboarding was added to the content pool. At that time people kept telling him that film festivals like iF3 would surely begin to die out as apps like Instagram and Tik Tok began to take over people’s lives with their instant, short video models.
But St-Jacques refused to believe that there would be a time when people didn’t want more depth to the films they were watching and he worked hard to grow the festival even more.
“I was right. In fact, we had the best year yet in terms of content and the types of projects. It was such a difficult year for our judges, it was incredible,” says St-Jacques.
“I think there is a need for human beings to tell their stories in much more detail than a 30-second video. There is a need for us to understand, and if we can take the time and sit down and analyze what’s being proposed in front of us, it’s like reading a book and I don’t think it will get old either. People want to be immersed in something and you cannot be immersed in 30 seconds or one minute in flashes.”
Since its inception in 2007, the film festival has changed drastically, according to St-Jacques, who says iF3 now has much more balance with a good mix of men’s and women’s content, skiing and snowboarding and storytelling and athletic performances.
However, possibly the biggest and most recent change to the festival’s format came last year when COVID-19 threatened to shut down the entire thing.
“In 2019 we had grown quite a bit, we were over 80 movies, and we were doing really well on both sides. We were starting to have plans for 2020 to go again to Whistler and make it a little bit bigger,” says St-Jacques. “And then of course, the pandemic hit and at that time it took us about two days, we gathered the team and we made a decision and we said we are going to focus on the hybrid format of the festival.”
The iF3 team decided to make almost all the films available online for free for anybody who wanted to be a part of the festival. They were even able to do a screening at a drive-in theatre and safely gather nearly 1,200 people to watch the films and the awards gala.
And because of the success of the 2020 festival, they decided to keep the hybrid format moving forward and share most of the films online for anybody who can’t make it to one of the three film screening locations (Whistler, Montreal and Chamonix), or isn’t yet comfortable being in a crowd.
St-Jacques says every year of the festival, there are films that surprise the judges and show something unexpected— and this year is no different.
“On the women’s night I would definitely not miss the film from Jess Kimura called Learning to Drown. It’s a very important film to watch out of the festival. I don’t even have words because when I start talking about it, I am a little bit emotional,” he said.
“We’ve also got really good reports from the judging side about Tales From Cascadia from [Blank Collective Films]. They are also nominated for multiple awards.”
The festival runs from Thursday, Oct. 21 to Saturday Oct. 23, with screenings at multiple locations in Whistler including the Westin Resort and Spa and the Maury Young Arts Centre. Thursday and Friday’s screenings at Maury Young start at 7 p.m. while Friday’s screening at the Westin starts at 8 p.m. Saturday’s screenings take place at the Westin from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. with the awards gala to follow.
To watch online, go to the festival's website and click on the big blue “Live TV” button.