Letters to the Editor for the week of December 13 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WHISTLER FILM FESTIVAL
  • Photo courtesy of Whistler Film Festival

It takes a village!

Thank you Whistler for once again supporting the Whistler Film Festival (WFF). This year marked our 18th edition, and we made great progress towards our goal of being among the top film festivals in North America for film fans and filmmakers alike.

With more than 1,000 submissions, festivalgoers experienced 85 fresh films (50 features and 35 shorts) in 104 screenings from over 12 countries, including leading award-season fare such as Roma, At Eternity's Gate, If Beale Street Could Talk, Mary Queen of Scots, On the Basis of Sex and Free Solo, Canadian content with merit and more female directed films than ever before.

WFF remained true to its mandate of discovering new talent, with the inclusion of 16 first-time feature films, 21 feature films directed by women (representing 46 per cent), and with 64 per cent of its program premiering Canadian features, more than any other international Canadian film festival this year. Plus, WFF's juries featured some of the industry's top talent, who presented 14 film awards and $146,500 in cash and prizing ($31,500 cash and $115,000 in prizes), plus a $41,000 power-pitch production prize.

This year, WFF truly came of age as a "filmmakers' festival." The level of talent and industry that came together to participate in our Film Festival, Content Summit and Talent Programs was by far the most impressive to date.

Highlights included our Signature Series, which honoured 15 artists of our time including Indigenous actor Tantoo Cardinal, award-winning writer, director and producer Robert Budreau, and Italian-Canadian actor Giacomo Gianniotti, as well as our live Music Showcase, which featured six export-ready artists from B.C., including two acts from the Sea to Sky corridor. We maintained our commitment to making media equitable with our Women on Top Series and being inclusive of diverse voices throughout our programming, which included an increased focus on more Indigenous and diverse talent and stories. We presented 30 industry-focused sessions with 70 guests at our Content Summit that connected filmmakers and dealmakers, and our 11 talent programs featured 66 industry faculty and supported 80 Canadian artists, including screenwriters, directors, producers, actors and musicians, to advance their projects and craft.

Attendance reached 14,053, including 1,185 industry insiders (representing a 20-per-cent increase), with attendees travelling here from Beijing, Nigeria, London, New York, Los Angeles and across Canada.

How do we relay the experience our attendees had? Perhaps it was the buzz in our village or being able to confirm with our hands on our hearts that Whistler is indeed home to Canada's coolest film fest.

Considering there are over 2,000 film festivals worldwide and 200 in Canada alone, this is an accolade to be very proud of for a little-festival-that-could and one that essentially started without such intention. It has taken 18 years and over $20 million dollars of investment to make this happen, all of which generate over $5.2 million of annual economic impact for Whistler and B.C. in addition to significant media and marketing exposure.

Thank you to the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Tourism Whistler, Arts Whistler, the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, Audain Art Museum, Village 8 Cinemas, our 20 accommodation partners including our host hotel the Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler Blackcomb, Gibbons Whistler and our hospitality partners who helped us host our guests, as well as all of our suppliers from Rocky Mountain Chocolate to Open Country for making sure we dressed the part.

Thank you as well to our incredibly dedicated board of directors, 70 staff, 14 filmmakers and WFF Live hosts, and 113 volunteers, all of whom are the true stars of the fest.

It truly takes a village. It takes you to make this happen. Thank you Whistler!

Shauna Hardy Mishaw
Executive Director and Founder of Whistler Film Festival

Highway safety a top priority

The delays we experienced last Sunday, Dec. 2 as a result of a tragic accident are sadly not an isolated event. If we are able to look beyond this heartbreaking incident and the emotionally devastating effect it has had on those who were involved in it, we must also consider the economics of the situation.

Case in point: the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) recently removed the centre planters by Lions Bay and installed concrete dividers. 

The highway workers told me they were happy the centre planters had been replaced as, "We were there every week for an accident." I replied by saying that saves ICBC a lot of money, and they responded seriously, "It saves the taxpayers a lot of money." 

I have personal reasons to hate those planters—dangerous by design, perfect to launch a vehicle into the other lane.

As a paramedic with B.C. Ambulance (Service), I was stationed at Lions Bay in the late 1980s. On one of my days off, my mother was hit by an oncoming vehicle that crossed into her lane. This accident was at the same location, and, had a concrete barrier been there, she would have been unharmed. 

In the ensuing years, that accident cost months of court time, at least $500,000 in 1988 dollars, and a lot of anguish. In the end, the highway was no safer. We all paid dearly for the actions of that one drunk driver, whether we were commuters, taxpayers, or customers of ICBC.

When I subsequently emailed photos of my concerns to a MOTI official responsible for the Sea to Sky Highway, I discovered that they also hated the planters, even citing the expenses associated with maintaining the plants due to them being in the middle of traffic. And yet, nothing was done for years, despite so many deaths and accidents.

What took so long?

This stretch of highway was well documented (as problematic) (Pique, Nov. 16, 2016). A petition had been signed by thousands of people, yet no changes actually happened until a court order came about, a case involving some great work by our former mayor, for which I am grateful. When it takes a court order to bring about change for what is clearly an ongoing traffic high-risk area, that tells me there is low accountability in our highway safety improvement program.

As a former pilot, and in managerial positions with airlines, I gained great respect for Transport Canada and its many safety courses I attended. They had the tough task of dealing with profit-minded owners that often viewed safety measures as too expensive. Transport Canada, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board sold safety with undeniable data, summed up by the phrase: "If you think safety is expensive, try having an accident." 

As a destination resort, Whistler caters to expert skiers, many of whom are adrenaline-driven, Type-A personalities who drive accordingly. We cannot afford to tolerate obvious risk factors on our highways that, like Lions Bay, could be easily fixed.

We need to ensure we have an effective and accountable highway safety program, based on accurate data from ICBC and the MOTI.

The West Vancouver police (force) in the '90s (was) given a commendation as a top police force for its efforts in accident reduction. Its chief reported that all they did was ask themselves three questions: "Where are the accidents happening, and how and what can we do to reduce them?"

Sometime all it takes is a few more concrete dividers.

Lance Bright
Whistler

Inspiring wonder

To the team at Watermark Communications Inc.—Sue Eckersley, Jasmine Robinson, Megan Pilat, Justina Armstrong, Jak Gracey, and Rob Olive—thank you for entrusting us with your sterling reputation as B.C.'s premiere food and wine festival.

The role of Cornucopia charity recipient is one we take very seriously and with it, we aim to enhance the experience of everyone involved.

Orchestrating the coat check and silent auction is no easy feat, and it could not have been done without the expertise and effort of Gord Annand, Susan Annand, Jacqui Tyler, and Sandra Epplett. Our gratitude goes out to the league of volunteers who helped us to raise nearly $35,000 for the Whistler Public Library Capital Reserve.

Over the next three years, the community will benefit from seeing this money at work through the phased library space changes.

The donations from Whistler's business community, B.C.'s wine and beer vendors, and countless individuals mean the community will enjoy more quiet space, comfortable seating, meeting rooms, and cutting-edge technology in the future.

Thank you Watermark for helping us to continue to "Inspire Wonder" and create opportunities for discovery and connection!

Elizabeth Tracy, library director
Bevin Heath Ansley, chair, Library Board of Trustees

Saying farewell

Loka Yoga Jivamukti Whistler at Nita Lake Lodge has been my life for the last 10 years—it was my saviour at a time when my life was in turmoil.

I am proud to be part of this amazing community, working with Indigenous elders for last 10 years and creating wonderful relationships. This was all I ever dreamed of and we did this and so much more, and we will continue to do so. 

But 2019 brings a new exciting change to my life.

When I was in India earlier this month, I had a realization of a project I had worked on with (former councillor) Andrée Janyk before she left her body, and I realize this is truly what I must do here—it was so clear.

Loka Yoga studio will close at the end of February 2019, but Loka Yoga will carry on with me in my new venture.

All our lives move on in different directions and mine is mapped out to create a medical healing and support centre working with cancer, post-traumatic stress, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and youth and mental health patients as well as students who wish to dedicate themselves to the environment and the well being of all living beings.

I am so honoured to have taught and mentored so many wonderful teachers on their journey through the yoga teachings and life.

For 30 years, I have also had the privilege of being the student of so many wonderful teachers who changed my life.

I am grateful for their support and love over the years, as this has enabled me to pass on their teachings here in Whistler and other countries.

I am grateful to Nita Lake Lodge for its support and help enabling me to build Loka into a studio known around the world.

But all good things move on and the hotel has exciting plans for its future, and I have to follow where my teachings and heart lead me.

It is not easy to be a business owner in this modern climate here, or anywhere; today and the past two years have not been easy. The summer months are always a struggle for the studio, putting pressure on myself and my family ... so we evolve.

We live in a quick-fix society and yoga is no exception. Money and materialism is the modern belief putting pressure on people to be perfect—unfortunately this is not the real world. Also, the perception that you need to jump on the yoga bandwagon to make quick money (means) its true roots and teachings that have been there for 5,000 years (have been forgotten).

I would not be a good yoga teacher if I looked to blame others or created negativity where there is none. Strong women don't play victims, don't make themselves look pitiful, and don't point fingers—they just get on and deal with their own actions while planting seeds of hope for the future.

I will be leading retreats in India, Moliki and Europe in 2019, and workshops where ever I am asked to go. Teacher trainings and personal mentoring will be limited to dedicated students who wish to serve their community.

I will come home to teach at Nita Lake Lodge for sure in the future. I love my home there, and the kindness of general manager Theresa Ginter and my landlord. Our relationship has always been so wonderful, probably a first in Whistler.

It is time now for me to be there for my sons and my parents, but most of all for myself.

To my beloved students, now teachers, (to my friends) ... who supported me through everything, thank you. I also loved working with Bear Smart for six years (Sylvia Dolson), and Bear Asia, Sea Shepherd and local business.

It's not what you talk about that makes the difference, it's what you do in your life that determines the end result—conscious empowerment through radical responsibility.

I hope you will fill the classes over the next two months to show your support to the wonderful teachers. Our final workshops and the closing party will be on Feb. 27, supported by Nita Lake Lodge.

Tina Pashumati James
Loka Yoga

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