It was a toss-up between two very different films at the 2017 Whistler Film Festival (WFF), which announced a two-way tie for best Canadian feature on its closing day.
When it came to the WFF's coveted Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature, the jury was split between Ian Lagarde's surrealist All You Can Eat Buddha and Carlos Sanchez' suspenseful Allure (previously titled A Worthy Companion).
That means the $30,000 in cash and post-production will be divided between the two films, which also both played the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year.
"Each (film) in their own way convey unique visions and creative storytelling the jury believes have made and will make powerful contributions to the world of cinema," the jury stated.
Lagarde, who also took home the Best Borsos Director Award, took an assured, formalistic approach to his debut feature, telling the story of a mysterious visitor to an all-inclusive Caribbean resort whose magneticism is surpassed only by his voracious appetite. The film devolves into a dream-like fugue state in its second half that is likely to puzzle some viewers, but Lagarde's confident, experimental approach behind the camera is surely a sign of a promising career.
Sanchez' Allure stars the magnificent Evan Rachel Wood as an emotionally unstable 30-year-old who becomes entangled with a talented pianist and teenage runaway, effectively exploring how dishonesty and co-dependency can warp power dynamics in intimate relationships. The jury also recognized Wood for her starring role with the Best Performance in a Borsos Competition Film Award. "Evan gives a brave, raw nuanced performance that explores the grey areas between predator and victim," the jury said.
Allure's director of photography Sara Mishara, alumnus of past Borsos winner Félix et Meira, won the Best Cinematography in a Borsos Film for creating "a rich and detailed visual universe through a very subtle crafting of the light." Honourable mention in this category singled out Nicolas Bolduc for his "stunning composition" in the Quebecois historical epic, Hochelaga, Land of Souls.
The hardware for best screenplay went to Grayson Moore, writer and co-director of the haunting Cardinals, which "presents a fresh take on the psychological drama that unfolds with the unpredictability of a great novel," according to the jury. Set in suburban Ontario, Cardinals is a masterfully subdued and wildly unpredictable look at the aftermath of a fatal car crash that devastates two families.
A total of 20 films were eligible to compete in the Borsos competition.
The World Documentary Award was presented to Kate Novack's The Gospel According to André, which the jury called "a fascinating portrait of a larger-than-life personality," — in this case, longtime Vogue editor and fashion icon André Leon Talley — that still manages to escape "the trappings of simple biography by revealing how a towering, influential figure still thrives in an imperfect world."
In the Best Mountain Culture Film category, Justin Taylor Smith and Chris Murphy's beautifully shot snowboarding flick, Depth Perception, took home the win. The jury called it "a clever and awesome representation of mountain culture" with spot-on writing that transported the judges "to a place of imagination just outside of realism" that brought in themes of sport, environmentalism and spiritualism.
Also presenting at the festival was the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, which handed out a Special Jury EDA Award to celebrated film and TV actress Kyra Sedgwick for her directorial debut, A Story of A Girl, which the jury called "a well balanced, timely and beautifully crafted film about a teenage girl dealing with the fallout of modern-day bullying."
The Alliance also presented the EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Short film to Sharren Lee for The Things You Think I'm Thinking, which tells the story of a burn victim and amputee re-entering the dating world.
"Ultimately, at the heart of the film are two people looking to make a human connection. And we found that we connect with them, too," the jury said.
For the full list of winners at the 17th annual WFF, visit whistlerfilmfestival.com.