Film festival growing with Whistler 

90 films, 10 workshops, five parties in four days

More than 5,000 people joined in the buzz of the Whistler Film Festival last year and Shauna Hardy Mishaw, festival director and co-founder, expects a 20 per cent growth this year.

With more than 90 films, 10 filmmaking workshops, five public parties, a live airing of CBC Newsworld’s The Hour, celebrity followings and new programs such as the Whistler Stories legacy program, youth events and late-night screenings, the 2005 Whistler Film Festival promises another blockbuster event for its fifth anniversary Dec. 1-4.

"In the past year and a half we set a strong vision where we see ourselves with a board, strategic planning and new staff," Hardy Mishaw said.

"I think when we started out we just wanted to help put Whistler on the map for arts and culture…. We are proud to help change the landscape of Whistler and help increase the capacity of the resort. Events like we are doing are critical to the fabric of the community."

Not only does she hope the festival will further build Whistler’s economy, but also build a potential filmmaking industry year round in Whistler.

She noted that $52 million in sales occurs within 10 days with the Toronto Film Festival. Filmmaking in Canada is a $3 billion industry and $1 billion industry in Vancouver.

"It’s a big business," she said. "Maybe somewhere down the line, we can help to put a filmmaker on the map and then Whistler becomes a better place to come because people are doing business here."

Along with the $10,000 Borsos Award and the filmmaker industry sessions contributing to the festival cache, Whistler itself provides a draw for the festival, whether participant or attendee.

This year, reputation and mountains, brought Robert Lantos to the festival as a Borsos Award juror and guest of honour at the Tribute to Robert Lantos Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at MY Millennium Place.

Lantos founded Canada’s leading television company, then Alliance Communications, now Alliance Atlantis. He also produced more than 30 films, including Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominated Being Julia , Golden Globe nominated Sunshine , Academy Award nominated Sweet Hereafter and Canadian box office hit Men with Brooms .

Celebrate one of Canada’s leading filmmakers with Lantos discussing his work in an informal discussion with journalist Katherine Monk. Tickets $15.

The Opening Gala is always a sell out event Thursday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Telus Conference Centre. The event includes a screening from Best Canadian Feature Toronto International Film Festival winner, C.R.A.Z.Y . – a coming of age story set in 1970s Quebec.

"It makes you laugh and moves you emotionally," Mishaw Hardy said. "It’s a film we should feel proud of as Canadians. That is what the opening galas are about."

The official Canadian entry for the Academy Awards will be followed by three shorts films as part of the Whistler Stories premiere. Look out for local filmmaker Rebecca Wood Barrett’s First to Go Down and Feet Banks’s Sojourn . Opening Gala tickets are $25.

The 5th Anniversary Party follows on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 9 p.m. at the Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC) and the Awards Brunch is Sunday, Dec. 4 at 10:30 a.m. at the Westin Resort where more than $23,000 in prize money will be awarded, including the Borsos Award for Best New Canadian Feature.

There will definitely be star spotting at the event with special guests Don McKellar ( Red Violin ), Molly Parker ( Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Men with Brooms ) Deborah Kara Unger ( White Noise, The Alibi, Émile ) and Charles Martin Smith ( The Untouchables, Never Cry Wolf ) coming to town.

Get up close and personal with George Stroumboulopoulos in a live national broadcast of CBC Newsworld’s The Hour Thursday, Dec. 1 at 5 p.m. at the GLC. Only 50 tickets are made available to the public. E-mail for tickets.

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