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Other options on the big screen

Reel Alternatives series offers up wide range of films in lead-up to Whistler Film Festiva

The glitz and glamour of a film festival can sometimes overshadow the real purpose of the event — to celebrate and share the work of talented filmmakers from around the world.

But the organizers of the Whistler Film Festival have found a way of ensuring that the local movie-lovers among us are given access to some of the finest films of the year, without having to deal with the pomp and circumstance of the red carpet.

In the weeks leading up to and following the annual Whistler Film Festival, the Whistler Film Festival Society, in partnership with Pique Newsmagazine and Village 8 Cinemas, presents a series of films each Wednesday evening.

This is the eighth year for the Whistler Film Festival, but Bill Evans, the director of programming for WFF, said this is only the fourth year for the Reel Alternatives program, which launched in 2004, the same year Evans joined WFF.

“The reason that it started was that there were a couple films that we were trying for at the festival that, for whatever reason, were not available during the screening months that we were aiming for,” Evans explained. “Basically, the great films that we might have seen at the Toronto Film Festival they, for whatever reason, were being released later in the spring.”

So they developed the Reel Alternatives series as a venue to screen films that weren’t available in time for the festival itself, but also as an opportunity to screen films that were particularly popular at the festival.

But in recent years, the purpose of the screening series has shifted to become more of a lead-up event to the WFF, raising awareness of alternative films and encouraging the average moviegoer to expand their boundaries and check out something that’s a bit different from the mainstream commercial flicks.

“They’re still accessible films, but they’re films that would probably not make it here to Whistler if we didn’t bring them in,” Evans said, adding that most feature well-known international actors, and are produced by very reputable companies.

“It’s kind of grown over the years,” Evans explained. “Initially, it was a way of bringing some films that we were really interested in sharing with the Whistler audience to Whistler, but outside of the festival. But it was such a successful series and we got such great feedback that we decided to keep it going.”

WFFS organizers work with the Film Circuit from the Toronto International Film Festival to select the films.

“They put together a number of films that are sort of part of their catalogue, which they make available to us and to other groups across the country, and we make our selections from those films,” said Evans.

There are lots to choose from, and it isn’t always easy to narrow down the selection.

“You can never tell what’s going to be popular and what’s not, but at the same time, we’re just going for the best and the highest-quality films we can bring in,” Evans said. “Films with a track record behind them.”

This year’s Reel Alternatives selections have not yet been finalized, though the screening series opens with Before the Rains, the English language debut of acclaimed Indian director, Santosh Sivan (The Terrorist). The film is set in the forests of southern India in 1937, and tells the story of an Englishman who carries on an affair with a local Indian woman. The film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

Reel Alternatives selections are not being shown during the festival itself, so this may be your only chance to check out some of these films on the big screen.

The cost of attending a Reel Alternatives screening is $12, or $60 for a package, which includes tickets to all six weeks. Or, this year, you can purchase a subscription that gets you into all six screenings and six WFF screenings for $95. For $135 you will receive tickets to all Reel Alternatives screens and a gold pass to the 2008 Whistler Film Festival.

“We generally are close to capacity, if not over capacity, in the Village 8, because it’s a smaller theatre,” Evans said, pointing out that people can avoid disappointment by opting for a subscription.

Purchase tickets online at