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Making indie films viable

Whistler Film Festival Society, Village 8 Cinemas announce top indies and comedy shorts for Reel Alternative screenings



What: Reel Alternatives

What: Humour Me

When: Wednesday, Sept. 19, 7 & 9:15 p.m.

Where: Village 8 Cinemas

Tickets: $8.50/$6.50

Screening independent films is not always economically viable for commercial theatres. The Whistler Film Festival Society feels a responsibility to fill that niche, not just one week out of the year when more than 80 alternative films screen at the festival, but all year round.

And hence the Reel Alternatives film series was born, screening top indies and comedy shorts every second Wednesday at Village 8 Cinemas.

“We wanted to be able to screen the same kinds of films you see at the festival on a year round basis,” said Bill Evans, festival program director. “We feel responsible to our patrons to continue to give them access to these types of films, which they normally wouldn’t see.”

Some of the films are films organizers had hoped to get for last year’s festival, so instead they are screening them as part of the series. Other films are being pulled from the Canadian Film Centre’s vaults, including the next Reel Alternative films in the series, Humour Me: Comedy Shorts from the 2007 Canadian Film Centre Worldwide Short Film Festival, which screens Sept. 19 at 7 and 9 p.m. at Village 8 Cinemas.

“The great thing about short films is that you get to see so many different styles and cultures of film in one program,” Evans said. “It is a world-wide tour in 90 minutes and it’s funny too — you get to laugh as a bonus.”

Film reels are coming in from all over the world for the Humour Me celebration, including Poland, Japan and the Czech Republic.

Other films in the series are summer releases overlooked by the masses interested in blockbuster hits such as Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

Once, a modern day musical set on the streets of Dublin, was one of those gems. The story of a street musician and a Czech immigrant reveal their unique love story as they write, rehearse and record songs. The winner of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award screens Oct. 3 at 7 and 9 p.m.

“The actor is a musician, and an original member of the Commitments (movie),” Evans said. “It’s not so much a musical, but a romance where music is created together.”

Romance is mixed up with the heroic tale of Rescue at Dawn on Oct. 17 at 7 and 9:30 p.m.

Filmmaker Werner Herzog, of Grizzly Man fame, dramatically retells the story of a German-born American Navy pilot’s extraordinary escape from a POW camp during the Vietnam War.

“It’s a harrowing tale of survival and determination,” Evans said. “It’s ultimately a rewarding story about the survival of a prisoner in a war camp. It’s quite different from other films along these lines. It’s really what it must have been like. It’s not exploiting it for emotional terms. It just shows the harsh conditions. It’s a tough film to watch, but a rewarding film in that he makes it out alive.”

The Reel Alternative fall film series wraps up with Shake Hands with the Devil Nov. 7 at 7 and 9:30 p.m. The film is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival this week, so organizers feel very fortunate to close out the series with this high-profile film.

Shake Hands with the Devil, starring Roy Dupuis (most famously known for his role in La Femme Nikita), is a character study of Romeo Dalaire, the former Canadian general (now senator) who was in charge of the United Nations forces in Rwanda during the 1994 civil war.

“The story is about how he is helpless to stop the genocide going on there and his own feelings of guilt and remorse,” Evans said. “It leads him to a personal break down when he goes to Canada and his recovery to spokesperson who speaks out against these kinds of atrocities that sadly continue to happen.”

The story roughly parallels what is currently going on today in Darfur. Evans hopes audiences will walk away from the theatre with something more to talk about.

“These are films tackling bigger issues, which I think is what part of our festival is about,” Evans said. “We want to bring in films that challenge people as well as entertain them.”

Reel Alternative memberships are available for $4, which saves members $2 on each of the screenings as well as discounts at Three Below and e-mail updates on the 2007 Whistler Film Festival, which runs Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 in Whistler.

Regular tickets are $8.50, and tickets and memberships are available for advance purchase at Village 8 Cinemas.