Playing with the big kids 

At five years old, the Whistler Film Festival strives to define its identity

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Evans says the motivation for changing the Borsos requirements was based on the realization that the restrictions left out too many good films, and on reevaluation, it was less important that the films be world premieres, and more important that the films embody the spirit of Phillip Borsos. The late Canadian director of films such as Bethune and the Grey Fox is revered for taking on challenging projects and refusing to compromise his artistic vision, even in the most difficult of circumstances. It’s a sensibility Evans applies to the Whistler Film Festival as a whole. "Each festival has to figure out its niche," he says. "Ours is trying to promote a maverick spirit which is reflected in the community."

That "maverick spirit" includes celebrating your own. While Hardy Mishaw and Evans are both adamant that the Whistler Film Festival not evolve into a mountain-culture event a la the Banff Festival or the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, the overwhelming popular response to former festival fare such as Ski Bums , In the Shadow Of The Chief and Crazy Canucks has inspired a new award this year for Best Mountain Culture Film. 2005 also marks the launch of Whistler Stories, a legacy film competition funded in part by the provincial government that is awarding four $5,000 grants to B.C. filmmakers, one of whom is to be of aboriginal heritage. The short films must be about stories specific to Whistler. Grants will be awarded in each of the years leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Included in the inaugural selection are First To Go Down , by Whistler residents Rebecca Wood Barrett, Lisa Richardson and Lisa Fernandez, about a youngster’s quest to find out who skied Whistler first, and Sojourn , by filmmaker and writer Feet Banks, a film that taps into the mind of Whistler-based underground artist Chili Thom. The third entry, by Vancouver’s Tracy D. Smith, features the outcome of a Whistler one-night-stand. The Whistler Stories films will screen in conjunction with the opening gala presentation of C.R.A.Z.Y. – a Quebecois coming of age film set in the rockin’ ’70s, (and a TIFF 2005 success story to boot).

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