The 13th annual Whistler Film Festival has wrapped up five days of movie screenings, industry seminars and competitions with a big announcement about funding to renovate the Rainbow Theatre.
Executive director of the festival, Shauna Hardy Mishaw announced that the theatre, where many of the screenings have been held, was being given $540,000 by the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Tourism Whistler in order to upgrade it.
Whistler’s mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, told the audience that the festival had become an important part of the resort’s cultural community since it started.
“The Resort Municipality of Whistler is pleased to support the Whistler Film Festival again this year. It’s part of our investment in cultural tourism. The municipality is also supporting Tourism Whistler in the refurbishment of the Rainbow Theatre… which I am sure you will all be happy to hear,” Wilhelm-Morden said to applause.
The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation is also providing $160,000 towards a digital cinema system for the Rainbow Theatre. Wilhelm-Morden’s announcement was followed by the awards presentation.
The Husband, by Canadian director Bruce McDonald, won the $15,000 first prize in Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature Film.
This film shows the other side of an adulterous affair, following Henry (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos) as he deals with raising a child while his wife serves a prison sentence for an affair with a 14-year-old student.
The competition is the second largest festival prize for a Canadian film in the country and is in its 10th year.
Tatiana Maslany won WFF’s Best Performance in a Borsos Competition Film Award for the second year in a row, for her role in Cas & Dylan. In 2012, she won the award for her role in Kate Melville's Picture Day.
Jennifer Merin of the New York-based Alliance of Women Film Journalists presented two of their annual EDA awards for women filmmakers, telling the audience that it was her organization’s first partnership with a Canadian festival.
The award for Best Female-Directed Documentary went to Lucy Walker and her Oscar-nominated story of the accident and recovery of half-pipe snowboarder Kevin Pearce, The Crash Reel.
The film closes the festival on Sunday night.
The Crash Reel also won a second award, The WFF Best Mountain Culture Film Award.
The EDA jury awarded a special mention in the documentary category. This went to Canadian director Alanis Obomsawin for her Hi-Ho Mistahey!, the story of Shannen Koostachin, a Cree teenager from Attawapiskat, Ontario, and her efforts to lobby for improved educational opportunities for First Nations youth.
“The journey is very long for the rights of indigenous children,” Obomsawin said when tearfully accepting her honour.
The EDA’s Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature winner was Toronto’s Ingrid Veringer for The Animal Project.
When she accepted her award, Veringer told the audience about a new writing program for Canadian female screenwriters and directors that her production company pUNK Films is starting in January.
She challenged the audience to help her make it happen by donating $6,000 to the program. The money will be used to supplement the six filmmakers selected.
“I know this is a ballsy request, but I would like to see more feature films made by women! Who can donate $6,000 for six features?” Veringer asked the audience.
“I’ll do it!” called out Oscar winning actress Melissa Leo, who jumped out of her chair. There was loud applause.
Winner of the MPPIA Short Film Award, taking home a cash prize of $15,000 and $100,000 of in-kind production services was Nick Citton for The Future Perfect.
The WFF World Documentary Award was awarded to Jingle Bell Rocks! directed by Mitchell Kezin.
The $1,000 Canadian ShortWork Award went to Anxious Oswald Greene, directed by Marshall Axani.
The International ShortWork Award went to A Grand Canal, directed by Johnny Ma. Ma told the audience that his mother would ask him if he won a prize every time he went to a film festival and he was very happy to finally be able to tell her he had.
The $500 ShortWork Student Award presented by Capilano University Film Centre went to Backward Fall by Andrew Pollins of the University of British Columbia.
As well, Variety magazine’s executive editor Steven Gaydos acknowledged the Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch, seven of whom were present at the festival. They were Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby); Lucinda Coxon (Crimson Peak); Andrew Dodge (Bad Words); Kieran Fitzgerald (Bambi); Morgan David Foehl (The Asset); Jennifer Lee (Frozen); Barbara Marshall (The Exorcism Diaries); Michael Mitnick (The Giver); Jonathan Tropper (One Last Thing Before I Go); and Canadian screenwriter Elan Mastai (The F Word).
For more interviews and information check out Pique Newsmagazine or www.piquenewsmagazine.com on Thursday, Dec. 12.