History on film 

Whistler Museum captures community’s transformation on film

What: Whistler: A People's History
When: Thursday, Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Where: MY Millennium Place
Admission: By donation

New to Whistler? Not quite sure what to make of this quirky little community of 10,000 year-round residents? Head down to MY Millennium Place to meet a few of the key players in town and get some perspective on how Whistler Village was transformed from a garbage dump into an Olympic destination, as told through the film, Whistler: A People's History.

The feature-length film is the culmination of the four-part Community Now series that was launched by the Whistler Museum in 2005, and is sponsored by the Whistler Arts Council, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the provincial government and the Cultural Olympiad.

Nicole Fitzgerald, the producer and director, editor Jacob Gish, and cameraman Frederick Oke have clearly devoted a lot of time and energy to ensuring that Whistler's rich history has been thoroughly explored. They've interviewed more than 100 residents in the process of making the film. The Hairfarmers' Guitar Doug, Olympian Ross Rebagliati, and Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski are a few of the many diverse characters featured.

"It's a people's history with an all-Whistler cast sharing their stories about this crazy town," Fitzgerald said in a recent press release.

Leslie Anthony, a Whistler resident, writer and member of the ski community, is just one of the many people profiled in this hour and a half-long documentary. He was actually interviewed twice for the project - once in the first phase, and again last year.

"Compared to the rest of the people they're interviewing, I'm probably a bit of a newbie," he said with a laugh. "I've been here almost 10 years, I guess, which barely qualifies me as a local, according to some people."

He moved here in December 1999, but had been coming to the community - the mecca of the snow sport industry - for years before that as part of his work.

"Whenever anything important was going on, it seemed to be going on here," he said.

Over the years, Anthony has definitely noticed the community transforming, though he can't seem to put a finger on the cause.

Jehanne Burns is the program and promotions supervisor at the Whistler Museum. She explained that the concept for Community Now came about while brainstorming for a project for the Museum to create for Celebration 2010.

"Obviously the museum is community focused, and this project sort of came out of what museums do," she said, explaining that they wanted to simultaneously explore history, document the present, and engage the public.

"This project puts museums into the community and also reminds people that we're not old dusty things, we're actually something that's current and alive and real, and reminds people that what's taking place now is actually history."

The film is a tangible reminder of Whistler's diverse roots, intended to offer visiting tourists and media an inside perspective. So far, it seems to be working, with NBC, BBC and other networks already requesting DVDs from the initial stages of the project as resource material.

But Burns hopes it will also help create a deeper sense of community spirit.

"Even sometimes, I think, those of us who know the stories take them for granted, and when we hear them told, it gives us a great sense of pride," she said.

While Burns said it's important to collect Whistler's story in time to tell it in 2010, she also points out that we encapsulate the community's history for future generations.

"My hope is that a seed has been planted," Burns said, adding that she hopes they can continue to carry the project forward in years to come.

Literary picks
It looks like Whistler isn't the only town in the Sea to Sky region to host a literary event this week. Pemberton's writers and storytellers will gather on Sunday, Feb. 15 for their first Story Harvest, entitled "Strange Fruit: A Community Story Harvest."

Over 31 entries were received after an open call for 300-word stories was issued to the literary community earlier in the New Year. The project aims to compile snapshots of the lives of the unique characters that make Pemberton a special place to live. To provide imagery to go along with the stories, some of the area's most talented photographers, including Toshi Kawano, Dave Steers, John Tschopp, are shooting the story subjects, which will be on display at the Pemberton Library for the duration of Winterfest.

The event takes place at the Pemberton Library from 2 to 5 p.m., during Winterfest's Artisans Exhibit.

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