La La Land, a romantic song and dance tribute to Hollywood starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is opening the 2016 Whistler Film Festival (WFF).
La La Land follows the joy and pain of an aspiring actress and a jazz musician as they seek their dreams in modern-day Los Angeles.
It opens WFF on Wednesday, Nov. 30, the first of 86 films — 50 features and 36 shorts — that will be shown at the five-day festival.
Paul Gratton, the head of the programming for WFF, is smitten with the film, calling it an Oscar contender.
“When I saw it I said to myself, ‘This is the perfect opening film. Please God, can I get it?’” he laughs. “There’s an opening musical number that blew my mind.”
The film lineup also includes other “Oscar bait” such as Miss Sloane starring Jessica Chastain, Lion starring Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel, Fire Free starring Brie Larson, and 20th Century Women, starring Annette Bening and Elle Fanning.
The festival closes on Sunday, Dec. 4 with the Canadian premiere of Shades of Winter: Between, a documentary-style celebration of women in winter sports.
Sixty per cent of WFF content for 2016 is Canadian, Gratton says.
Canadian premiere entries for this year’s Borsos competition for Best Canadian Film include Population Zero, Adam Levins’ mockumentary investigation into a triple murder in Yellowstone National Park; Grand Unified Theory, David Ray’s story of an astrophysicist’s fractured family life; Chris Craddock’s It’s Not My Fault And I Don’t Care Anyway, featuring Alan Thicke as a narcissistic self-help guru; Ken Finkleman’s wicked American political satire An American Dream: The Education Of William Bowman; and Lost Solace, Chris Scheuerman’s thriller about a psychopath who develops empathy after ingesting a party drug. Additional Borsos entries include; The Void, a zombie-type horror movie featuring the special effects from directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski; Menorca, John Barnard’s study of a bad soccer mom featuring Tammy Gillis; Hunting Pignut, a first-time feature from Newfoundland filmmaker Martine Blue about a teen runaway played by B.C.’s Taylor Hickson; The Space Between, Amy Jo Johnson’s dissection of what fatherhood really means; and The Sun At Midnight, a rare film from the Northwest Territories about a teen runaway and a bear attack, directed by Kirsten Carthew and featuring Devery Jacobs.
Four films from Quebec will also vie for the Borsos awards this year: Before The Streets, the first film ever made in the Atikamekw language from first-time filmmaker Chloé Leriche; The Cyclotron, an ambitious Casablanca-style World War II thriller set on a train with sci-fi overtones, from director Olivier Asselin; The Squealing Game, Steve Kerr’s harrowing drama about a married man who runs an online dating site for cheating husbands; and the highest-grossing Canadian film of 2016 at the box office, Jean-François Pouliot’s The Three Little Pigs 2.
A number of Canadian films will be showcased outside of the Borsos competition, including internationally acclaimed director Deepa Mehta’s Anatomy Of Violence, a study of six rapists who attacked a woman and her companion on a bus in India in 2012 that revisits the event as a kind of cinematic docu-fiction.
Gratton estimates 13 of the films at WFF 2016 are by first-time filmmakers and 15 are by female directors.
Further announcements about festival honourees are expected in the next few weeks.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.whisterfilmfest.com.
For the full lineup story, pick up the next issue of Pique Newsmagazine on Thursday, Nov. 3.