Notes from the Back Row 

Fest-ering

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True movie fans (and even people who pretend to like movies to seem cool) are in for a treat this weekend because it’s that time of year again — the Whistler Film Festival is underway! Hopefully, you all got out Wednesday night to see Citizen Sam , the hot documentary of the festival, about Vancouver’s charismatic mayor. Sammy’s been in the news lately because the plan is to just relocate Vancouver’s homeless people when the Olympics come to town — sweep ’em under the rug, so to speak. Of course, that isn’t what the film was about, and what am I doing reviewing last week’s movies anyhow? Onward….

The Whistler Stories short films, produced right here in Whistler by people you might even know, kick off the Gala screening tonight (Thursday) and it’s always a good idea to support your local filmmakers and see just how far $5,000 goes these days.

The main event of the Gala is Let it Ride . No, not the 1989 Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr flick about a loveable degenerate gambler, this Let it Ride is about the life of the even-more-lovable godfather of snowboarding, Craig Kelly. Starting in the early (neon) days of snowboarding and spanning right through to Kelly’s tragic and untimely death in 2003, this film has it all — history, humour, great riding, and more than a few emotional moments. Snowboarding is a pretty big deal in this town and Craig Kelly was the greatest snowboarder ever, so get to that Film Fest opening Gala and pour some on the block for a legendary man and a kick-ass rider.

Speaking of ass, as in ass-backwards, it seems strange to be in the midst of an arctic cold front and still be worrying about global warming. It’s the real deal though and a nifty documentary called White Planet , playing Friday night, is a superbly shot look at the effects of turning up the heat in the Antarctic. More scenery than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth but with a similar message: we’re pretty much screwed; the time to change is now.

The other big film at this year’s fest is Civic Duty , a Rear Window -esque film about a dude who loses his job, becomes obsessed with CNN and spends most of his time spying on his Muslim neighbour, who may or may not be a terrorist. This is the Canadian premier of Civic Duty and stars Kari Matchette and Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) will be in town to answer any stupid questions you might have about what it’s like to be marginally famous. Civic Duty screens Saturday and, like all the films in the ’06 Whistler Film Fest, is truly worth checking out.

If you still need to get your Hollywood fix, don’t worry, the Village 8 is screening some in-theatres-now films throughout the festival and on Dec. 4 they’re opening Babel , starring Mr. Brad Pitt , Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal and Rinko Kikuchi, who steals the show. Directed by Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu ( Amores Perros, 21 Grams) Babel continues along a similar structure as his previous flicks. Four segments are mixed together yet all four relate to each other in a unifying theme about how small actions can have great consequences and that language may be humanity’s greatest barrier. Using some shock tactics that have drawn some criticism and nifty story connectors, that haven’t, Innaritu has crafted a compelling picture that, while occasionally sacrificing character and backstory a bit, is a fine watch and should make some noise come Oscar season.

WHISTLER FILM FESTIVAL Nov. 30-Dec. 3

AT VILLAGE 8 Dec. 1-3: Nativity Story; Casino Royale; Deck the Halls; Deja Vu; Borat; Bobby; Happy Feet and Whistler Film Festival.

Dec. 4-7: Babel; Nativity Story; Casino Royale; Deck the Halls, Deja Vu; Borat; Bobby; Happy Feet.

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