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Six world premieres at this year’s film fest

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Work of Canadian filmmakers featured

Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Sundance. Dare we add Whistler to the list?

It may be presumptuous, the act of a too-proud parent boosting the achievements of a precocious youngster. But in light of the recently announced lineup of 21 feature and mid-length films, including six – count ’em, six – world premieres, it’s hard not to consider the third annual Whistler Film Festival coming into its own as a world-class event.

According to festival director Shauna Hardy, this year’s festival received approximately 190 submissions from all over the world, a threefold increase from last year, and the world premiere count of six is up from a combined 2001-2002 total of one.

Among those making their international debut are In the Shadow of the Chief , Ivan Hughes’ locally produced examination of the inaugural 1961 ascent straight up the middle of Squamish’s rock-climbing mecca, and The Vanishing Tattoo , a documentary about a modern tattoo artist’s quest to record an ancient practice of his craft in the jungles of Borneo.

Oregon filmmakers also feature prominently in the premiere roster with Neal Miller’s Raising Flagg a dramatic comedy about family life, and Stealing Cambodia, a hard-hitting dramatic first feature from Mika Kitamura about four Americans caught up in the Cambodian child sex trade.

Audiences will also be treated to the premiere of Baghdad or Bust, an intriguing look at the war in Iraq through the eyes of a documentary filmmaking collective from the Northwest Territories.

Youngsters will get the first official look at the antics of a snowboarding chimpanzee in Vancouver filmmaker Robert Vince’s Most Xtreme Primate, a presentation of the youth division of the festival.

Four of the six world premieres are Canadian productions, which is indicative of the festival’s mission to maintain a strong Canadian focus.

"We’re really committed to showing Canadian content," says Hardy. "We don’t see many Canadian films in the theatres, so film festivals are a really great way to support Canadian filmmakers."

An impressive list of the best and brightest festival favourites from around the world round out this year’s roster, many courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival Group’s film circuit touring program. The eclectic bag contains everything from surfing to adoption to aboriginal storytelling to parking tickets.

The festival’s official kick off is the Ron Mann documentary film Go Further, a follow up of sorts to the film Grass, which Hardy notes was a hit at the 2001 festival. Go Further allows audiences a chance to catch up with the environmental activism and marijuana legalization campaign of actor Woody Harrelson.

The unofficial festival kick-off is a special pre-festival presentation of the film Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole, on Wednesday, Dec. 3. Admission will be by donation with proceeds going toward fundraising efforts to return the film’s subject to the care of the Haisla Nation from a Stockholm museum where it is currently on display as the property of the Swedish government. The screening is a co-presentation of the Canadian Heritage department and includes an appearance from Heritage Director and MP Sheila Copps.

A complete list of film descriptions and schedule information is now available on the Festival’s Web site, www.whistlerfilmfestival.com, which is also the address of the online box office. Festival passes have been on sale online since early November, with individual screening passes going on sale Nov. 17. Tickets will be available online, over the phone at 604-938-3323, through Tourism Whistler’s Information and Activity Centre and at Nesters Market.

Forum focuses on accessible technology

This year’s concurrent Whistler Film Festival Filmmakers Forum will focus on innovation and the raising of the independent film production bar via new, attainable technology, says Whistler Film Festival director Shauna Hardy.

The educational series has attracted an impressive roster of top industry cinematographers, editors and directors, and will include a hands-on session dealing with cutting edge editing software Final Cut Pro 4 by Vancouver instructor Alex McNeil-Richardson .

Further information on forum sessions and registration is currently online at www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.

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