A&E » Arts

Celebrating the Ski Bum in everyone

10 years later, John Zaritsky returns to WFF to share Ski Bums with the masses



What: Screening of Ski Bums

When: Thursday, Dec. 2, 11:15 p.m.

Where: Whistler Conference Centre

Cost: Free

There are people in Whistler who live and breathe for skiing; they'd rather count the number of days they've clocked on the hill than the number of dollars they have in the bank, they live by a "centimetre-rule" to decide if they're going to work in the morning, and the sound of avalanche control bombs sets their hearts aflutter. These people are ski bums.

Whistler residents are undoubtedly familiar with these characters, but to people who live outside of the "bubble" they're a fascinating little segment of society. So fascinating, in fact, that 10 years ago a well-known Canadian documentarian decided to delve into their world.

John Zaritsky spent seven years working as a newspaper reporter before venturing into the film business.

"I was offered two and a half times the money I was making at The Globe & Mail , so basically consider me a sell-out," Zaritsky admitted with a laugh. "They made me an offer I literally couldn't refuse!"

Through his documentaries, Zaritsky has remained dedicated to telling true stories about others. Today, he has amassed almost 37 years of experience in the film industry, earning an impressive list of accolades along the way (more than 30 awards, including an Academy Award in 1982 for his documentary Just Another Missing Kid , a Cable Ace Award in 1987 for Rapists: Can They be Stopped , a Robert F. Kennedy Foundation Award for Born in Africa , and an Alfred Dupont Award from Columbia University's School of Journalism in 1994 for Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo .) His films have been featured at a wide range of prestigious American festivals like the New York Film Festival, American Film Festival and Houston International Film Festival. ­­And one of his projects was the first film ever screened at the first Whistler Film Festival, 10 years ago.

While the bulk of his films focus on very serious subject matter, earning him the nickname the "Dr. Death" of documentary filmmaking, Zaritsky decided to take a very different tack and make Ski Bums , which saw the veteran filmmaker trailing 10 self-proclaimed ski bums as they lived for a season in Whistler.

"Among a lot of other reasons why I made Ski Bums was, nobody died in Ski Bums ," he chuckled. "I wanted to do something quite different: really something that would be highly visual, very funny, very entertaining. I wanted to lighten up, myself, after years of doing very serious films."