The Fourth Whistler Film Festival released its lineup this week, offering a glimpse at the craziness to come.
Craziness? For starters, this year’s festival is crazy big. There are 93 films screening over the four days, up from last year’s 40. Of those 93, 33 are feature films and 60 are shorts.
Programming Director Bill Evans says the festival received close to 400 submissions, more than double the 190 received in 2003, with a considerably higher number of submissions from the United States.
"In the last three months I’ve been watching films non-stop," Evans said. "It’s crazy, but it’s a good kind of crazy. It proves there are a lot of talented people out there who are making films. We cast a wider net this year and I think we caught some winners."
It’s crazy right from the start. Things kick off with a gala screening of Crazy Canucks on Thursday, Dec. 2, the British Columbia premiere of Randy Bradshaw’s drama about the infamous Canadian men’s downhill ski team in the 1970s.
The director is expected to attend the event, as are former Crazy Canucks Ken Read (whose book White Circus inspired the film) and local Steve Podborski. The late Crazy Canuck Dave Murray, namesake of the Whistler downhill course, will be represented at the event by his wife Stephanie Sloan Murray and their daughter Julia Murray, an aspiring racer.
The festival is also debuting its juried $10,000 Phillip Borsos Award for the best Canadian feature film. Six films are in contention, all of which are world premiere screenings. There are nine world premieres in total at the festival, the directors of which have all confirmed they will be in attendance at the festival.
The Borsos Award winner will be announced at Sunday’s awards brunch. The premiere eligibility requirements for the lucrative award are designed to encourage more filmmakers to debut their films in Whistler, Evans said, building the festival’s reputation for "discoveries."
There will be a Saturday evening tribute to Borsos followed by a screening of the late filmmaker’s classic work The Grey Fox .
The Canadian content goes beyond Borsos. The fest is bringing in Bruce MacDonald’s latest The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess – a musical in MacDonald’s rock ’n’ roll style about Vancouver’s notorious soap-opera juror. Others of note include Scaredsacred from renegade underground filmmaker Velcrow Ripper, a smash hit at Vancouver’s recent fest, and Childstar the latest from Canadian indie icon Don McKellar, who has confirmed he will be in attendance.
Some of the best and brightest from the festival circuit over the past year will screen in Whistler, including Toronto Film Festival hits The Motorcycle Diaries and Head in the Clouds and Sundance winners Primer , a philosophical sci-fi story, and DIG!, a rockumentary that lines up alt-rockers Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Courtney Taylor of the Dandy Warhols.
There is respite from the mole-like world of the darkened movie theatre. Collections of short films will be shown outdoors on the festival’s large inflatable screen – last seen at Lost Lake for the summer Reel Alternatives films.
Also on the streets, CBC Newsworld’s pop-culture program >play hosted by Jian Ghomeshi will broadcast from the Village Square on Dec. 3. The special program – called cold(er)>play – will focus on snow culture and will feature several guests from the Film Fest.
Drama, documentary, comedy. So many films; so few days.
One man in town has already seen them all. Does he have a personal favourite? An advance tip on one to watch?
According to Evans it’s Phil The Alien . (No relation to Whistler DJ Mat The Alien.)
"It’s just a strange little film that came out of nowhere about an alien who crash lands in Northern Ontario and ends up hanging out in the bar with all the locals," Evans said. "He befriends a talking beaver that’s voiced by Joe Flaherty from SCTV... he ends up jamming with the local bar band, singing in some weird alien language."
Sounds like my kind of film. Crazy.
The Fourth Whistler Film Festival runs Dec. 2-5. For more information go to www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.