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Whistler Film Festival wraps for 2010

The Whistleblower grabs top prize at 10th anniversary film festival



In case you've been living under a rock for the past week or so, you probably noticed that the 10th annual Whistler Film Festival recently took the town by storm, with 68 film screenings - 56 of which were premieres, including nine world premieres - three gala events and a whole host of industry events.

According to event co-founder and executive director, Shauna Hardy Mishaw, this year's festival saw an overall attendance of 8,189 people, which is on par with numbers from 2009. Considering the fact that they added a full day and venue to the festival, significantly enhancing their capacity, Hardy Mishaw said she is pleased with the consistent numbers. She added that all of their special events were sold out and 60 per cent of their feature films were at or near capacity.

They gave away over $50,000 in cash prizes this year, a record for the event. The Whistleblower won both the $15,000 Borsos prize and Audience Award, while Attenberg won the inaugural New Voices International Feature Competition and the $10,000 prize it carried with it.

"We really wanted to expand our international programming, and this was the year where we took that extra step, so that was really important," Hardy Mishaw said. "And part of it is us getting out in the world."

Artistic director Stacey Donen attended the Cannes Film Festival last May, and intends to attend the Berlin Film Festival this year, scouting for new talent and spreading the word about the WFF.

"You have to develop relationships with the filmmakers, distributors and producers, and that's what it's all about," Hardy Mishaw explained. "If you don't have those relationships, you can't just send them a letter and go, 'Hi, we liked your film. Come to Whistler.' It doesn't work that way."

This year, festival programming was split almost 50/50 between Canadian and international content.

"Still, we always will, no matter what happens, put Canadian filmmakers at the heart of our festival because we're in Canada, we're standing up for Canadian cinema, we are standing up for our talent. We believe we have some of the best filmmakers in the world in this country. And if we don't do it, if we don't take that stand for Canada, nobody is going to."

2 Frogs in the West won best Mountain Culture film, and Marwencol won Best Documentary. Best Shortwork went to Via Gori , best Student Shortwork went to Irradiate and the MPPIA Short Film Award went to Joanna Makes a Friend .

And thanks to a new competition sponsored by Whistler Brewing Company, two up-and-coming local filmmakers, Ian Dunsmore and Danny Belair, took home $5,000 for their short film, Two Minutes .

Hardy Mishaw's personal highlights included the B.C. premiere of Daydream Nation , directed by Michael Goldbach and starring Kat Dennings, Reece Thompson and Josh Lucas.

"They chose to have their B.C. premiere in Whistler, and they chose not to do it in Vancouver - that was a huge win for us!" Hardy Mishaw said.

The festival also included a number of "phenomenal" industry events, including an in-conversation session with actor Bruce Greenwood, the CFC Writers Workshop that connected three pre-selected B.C. writers with acclaimed Irish film director and six-time Academy Award nominee, Jim Sheridan, and a tribute to Bruce MacDonald and Monte Helleman, with George Stroumboulopoulos and Atom Egoyan.

"It's very exciting. It was definitely a huge year for us. We seemed to garner a lot of attention and attracted a lot of people to the festival this year from many, many different places."

Attendees included some very influential industry people who came to Whistler to make connections, develop relationships and do business.

"That is a sign, to me, of a turning of the tides and that's really important because this festival, as much as there's an opportunity for the audiences to experience it, it's a festival for filmmakers and for the industry."

Hardy Mishaw points to Bruce MacDonald, who attended WFF in 2008 with his film Pontypool and met executive producer, Rob Merilees, who worked with the late William Vince, producer of the Academy Award-winning Capote , who was honoured at the festival that year.

"They met here, in Whistler, and it was from that meeting that they decided to do Hard Core Logo II ," Hardy Mishaw explained.

"That is what this is about; that's the heart of it."