It’s a wrap! 

Eighth annual Whistler Film Festival maintains numbers, attracts more out-of-town visitors

Whistler saw a lot of action last week, as avid film aficionados, industry professionals and celebrities flocked to town to attend the eighth annual Whistler Film Festival.

A grand total of 92 films — feature and mid-length, and shorts — were screened during the four-day festival, which also featured some seriously swank parties and special events.

This year, the annual tribute to the president of the Borsos jury honoured none other than Donald Sutherland.

“Obviously, that was a highlight,” said festival director Shauna Hardy Mishaw. “We’ve been trying for four years to get him to come to Whistler, so it was really a hallmark thing for us to, after four years, actually achieve that.

“He had such a special connection to Phillip Borsos and for me, and I think for everybody on the team, it was really a hallmark moment to have him share his story about Phillip and just his connection to the family. And I know for the filmmakers that were in that competition, that they were unbelievably moved by it.”

This year’s festival also included a memorial tribute to William Vince, a well-known Canadian producer who passed away in June.

“It was quite fresh and we really wanted to make sure that his legacy was celebrated by the industry to which he contributed so much,” Hardy Mishaw said.

“3 Seasons” won the Borsos Competition, Best Documentary was awarded to “Art Star and the Sudanese Twins,” while “Journey of a Red Fridge” was selected as Best Mountain Culture film. Best Short Film was “Next Floor,” while “The Gray Matter” captured the MPPIA Short Film Award, and “The Apology” won Pitch Fest West.

The opening gala featured Michael McGowan’s new feature-length film, “One Week,” starring Joshua Jackson, as well as four shorts from the Sea to Sky region: Whistler Stories.

“The opening gala was really well received — people loved the film,” she said of the sold-out event.

On the industry side of the WFF, the Filmmaker Forum, is also being labeled a success.

“The industry came out in force — we had all the four Western provinces represented — we had a strong contingency from Toronto and Montreal, the calibre of the international guests was huge, and there were tons of relevant connections that were made,” said Hardy Mishaw.

Figures for the eighth annual WFF were slightly above last year’s attendance numbers, with a total attendance of over 7,596 people, which represents a 7 per cent increase over 2007. Given the poor current economic conditions, organizers were pleased with the attendance.

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