Third Fest the best yet 

Whistler Film Festival organizers thrilled with sold-out shows, industry buzz

With year number three now solidly underneath it, there can be no doubt amongst organizers, attendees and guests that this year’s Whistler Film Festival was anything but a roaring success.

"The reality going into this was: is this festival going to survive? You have to have the buy-in, you have to have the support from the community, and it’s there," confirmed festival director and co-founder Shauna Hardy.

A sign things were off to a good start was when pre-festival screenings of Gil Cardinal’s documentary film Totem: Return of the G’psgolox Pole raised $1,350 toward the Haisla Nation’s quest to retrieve a sacred artifact from a Swedish museum.

The official festival kicked off with a bang when both screenings on the launch evening of Thursday, Dec. 4 sold out.

The momentum continued through the weekend. Hardy says out of 23 screenings, eight films sold out completely with five near sellouts. Ivan Hughes’ Squamish-based documentary In the Shadow of the Chief was embraced so enthusiastically, organizers commandeered a second theatre at Village 8 Cinemas reserved for forums and workshops to stage an additional impromptu screening. It was worth the trouble as the film ended up taking home the People’s Choice Award.

While there was the odd technical glitch, that for the most part was dealt with efficiently behind the scenes, organizers were in the coveted situation of having the festival’s biggest problem also be its biggest triumph.

"People were so stoked about the festival," said Program Director Kasi Lubin. "We don’t like having to turn people away, but it’s a sign,"

Both Lubin, a festival co-founder, and Hardy were themselves buzzing about the industry "buzz" the festival generated.

The festival hosted approximately 200 guests, up from 30 in 2002, many of whom took advantage of the slopes. Oregon director Neal Miller, who premiered the film Raising Flagg, was recently quoted in industry vanguard publication Variety saying that the Whistler experience was akin to the early days of Sundance, no empty praise considering the profile of the latter and the similarities between the locales.

Of course, underneath it all was the raison d’être – the films. Committed to showcasing independent Canadian content, the festival introduced a number of emerging talents on the Canadian film scene. Along with Hughes’ climbing epic, Vancouver director Nathaniel Geary’s film On the Corner received the jury’s award for Best Canadian Film, and Yellowknife, NWT-based Matt Frame took home the Best Documentary Award for his first feature Baghdad or Bust, which premiered at the festival to a sold-out theatre.

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