Independent films giving the blockbusters a run for their money 

What: Whistler Film Festival

Where: Rainbow Theatre & MY Place

When: Dec. 5-8

If you’ve mulled over a movie guide or any of the box office takings of late, you’ll see that independent filmmakers are taking the industry by storm. No longer does it seem necessary to have Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts to get your movie moving. In fact, some of the most well-received films making people stand up and take notice don’t even have actors at all.

A selection of these new non-Hollywood popular features are making their way to Whistler for the second annual Whistler Film Festival, and Atanarjuat and Dogtown and Z Boys are excellent examples of what not to miss.

They are two distinctly different films with one common thread – both features are written, produced and directed by their subject matter.

Atanarjuat — the Fast Runner , is an exciting action thriller set in ancient Igloolik. The film unfolds as a life-threatening struggle between powerful natural and supernatural characters.

Atanarjuat is Canada's first feature-length fiction film written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit. The movie has won several awards, including the 2001 Cannes film festival camera d’or for best feature film. Cinematographer/producer, Norman Cohn, said aboriginal story-telling has been a labour of love for his Inuit production company for 17 years.

"The awards and recognition by the public are testimony to how far we’ve come politically in this industry," Cohn said. "We’ve finally broken through racist stereotypes to prove that artistic merit overrides everything else."

Cohn and his Inuit team always knew they had a great film on their hands with Atanarjuat, but it was a matter of finding someone influential to recognize it.

"All serious resonant myths are universal and timeless, whether it be the big Greek myths or biblical stories. We knew that no matter how exotically placed we were, if we told the adventure in an authentic way using spectacular images, it would still feel contemporary," he said.

Enter Cannes and the rest is, as they say, cinematic history.

Dogtown and Z-Boys traces a bunch of lower Los Angeles beach-side skate punks on their journey from dirty surfing delinquents to skateboard superstars. Even the most staunch skater hater will have a hard time knocking this unconventional documentary. With a killer soundtrack, amazing home video footage that takes you to where it all began, and zippy editing this film proves that long-haired street urchins can come up with great ideas.

The Z-Boys, in their quest to do something exciting during California’s big drought, took their skateboards to the suburbs’ empty swimming pools and started tearing up and down the concrete shells as if they were surf breaks. They turned skateboarding upside down.

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