• Anthony Nadeau

Press Release: Whistler Film Festival Rolls Out Film Lineup and Juries for hybrid 21st Edition

Whistler Film Festival Rolls Out Film Lineup and Juries for hybrid 21st Edition Women dominate as 81 films premiere over five days of in-theatre and 31 days of virtual screenings Whistler Opening Night features the Canadian premiere of THE LOST DAUGHTER by Maggie Gyllenhaal

Whistler, BC (November 2, 2021) - The Whistler Film Festival (WFF) has announced the full film lineup for its 21st edition with a hybrid offering of online and in-theatre screenings that include award season contenders, breakthrough Canadian and heart-stopping adventure films, and award-winning stories from around the globe. Festival-goers can look forward to 81 epic, bold and inspiring films, including 40 features and 41 shorts curated in nine programmes. WFF is also proud to announce directorial gender parity, with 20 of 40 features and 25 of 41 shorts directed or co-directed by women or non-binary individuals.

Great films continue to shine and tackle relevant issues of our time. From the deliciously sweet story of a refugee family carving out a new life in a new home (PEACE BY CHOCOLATE) to thought-provoking perspectives on mental illness (LUNE) and assisted death (MOON MANOR), WFF21 films share perspectives across cultures (EVELYNE, ALTAR BOY), highlight LGBTQ stories (DAWN HER DAD AND THE TRACTOR, MOON MANOR, PAT ROCCO DARED), Indigenous stories (TZOUHALEM, RUN WOMAN RUN, PRECIOUS LEADER WOMAN), environmentalism and more. In a year like no other, indie filmmakers continue to show that social distancing doesn’t stop us from connecting to the stories that matter. In fact, the need to communicate through cinematic storytelling has never seemed stronger.

‘Canada’s coolest film fest’ continues to support emerging, diverse and domestic talent with 17 first-time feature films (42%), 56% of films directed or co-directed by women, including 50% of features, and 61% of the shorts (20 Features, 25 Shorts), and 61% of the program premiering Canadian content - more than any other Canadian film festival this year. Films in competition will compete for 15 film awards and $36,500 in cash and prizes from juries composed of leading cinematic talent.

Selected from over 1,550 submissions, film highlights include previously unseen projects with over two-thirds of the feature offerings representing World, North American, National VOD, and Canadian premieres. Programming strands this year include American Indies, Canadian Vanguard, Doc Bloc, Films From Away, From the Vault, Mountain Culture, New Voices, Special Presentations and ShortWork.

From December 1 to 31, national online audiences can enjoy 31 features and 35 shorts, including three feature films not available in theatres. Continuing the practice established in 2020 to support filmmakers in challenging times, WFF will share net proceeds of its online offerings on a 50/50 basis directly with the filmmakers or Canadian rights holders.

From December 1 to 5 audiences in Whistler, British Columbia will share in the big-screen experience with 31 features, including 15 premieres and six short film programmes premiering exclusively in-theatre. Provincial health and safety protocols are in place at all theatres and proof of vaccination is required to attend WFF screenings and events.

”With a particular emphasis on Canadian content creators and distinct and emerging new voices, the Whistler Film Festival continues to fill a valuable niche within the Canadian film festival ecosystem, and we’ve reached an exciting milestone this year in terms of gender parity,” says Paul Gratton, WFF’s Director of Programming. “WFF has evolved into a premium showcase for exciting new motion pictures not previously shown at other film festivals. With our strongest lineup ever of Canadian gems, particularly in the documentary realm, and an inspiring selection of award-hopefuls presented in theatre, our 21st edition crackles with the energy and creativity that result when brand new voices mix with established filmmakers.”

The Whistler Film Festival Opening Night film will set the tone for this year’s festival with the Canadian Premiere of THE LOST DAUGHTER, a truly independent-spirited feature debut from Maggie Gyllenhaal, who won the Best Screenplay Award at the 78th Venice International Film Festival and features a fantastic lead performance by Olivia Colman as a woman who never really felt comfortable being a mother, alongside Ed Harris and Dakota Johnson. Closing the festival will be the North American Premiere of the Austrian biopic of 1976 Olympic gold medal ski racer Franz Klammer, CHASING THE LINE. This dramatic feature recreates the excitement of Innsbruck in 1976.

In Competition

Cinematic excellence remains at the heart of the Whistler Film Festival with 15 film awards in seven juried competitions to be presented that include:

  • Borsos Award for Best New Canadian Feature Film ($15,000 cash award presented by the Directors Guild of Canada – British Columbia with a $20,000 Post Production Prize sponsored by Company 3 Method Ltd. for the winning film); Best Direction in a Borsos film presented by the Directors Guild of Canada – British Columbia; Best Cinematography in a Borsos film presented by ICG 669; Best Performance in a Borsos film; and Best Screenplay of a Borsos film

  • World Documentary Award

  • Mountain Culture Award presented by Whistler Blackcomb

  • Canadian ShortWork Award ($1,000 cash award)

  • International ShortWork Award

  • Student ShortWork Award presented by Capilano University Film Centre ($500 cash award)

  • AWFJ EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, and Short film

  • New BC Directors Award presented by the Directors Guild of Canada – British Columbia

  • Audience Award for Best Feature of the Festival (non-cash prize) - with Online and In-Theatre Awards

The 18th annual Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature returns with the country’s second-largest festival prize. 15 Canadian films will contend for the five coveted Borsos Competition awards that honour Canadian filmmaking talent and is a bellwether for future accolades. This prestigious award is open to all Canadian dramatic features making their British Columbia premiere at the festival and is named in honour of Canadian filmmaker Philip Borsos, best known for his inspiring work on the Genie Award-winning films THE GREY FOX (1982) and BETHUNE: THE MAKING OF A HERO (1990).

(Still from Alter Boy)

Titles in competition include the World Premieres of Serville Pobelte’s first time Filipino-Canadian coming-of-age feature ALTAR BOY; CARMEN, a sun-dappled Canada/Malta coproduction featuring Natascha McElhone and directed by Valerie Buhagiar; CONFESSIONS OF A HITMAN, a true story about a biker gang assassin responsible for 28 murders in Quebec over 25 years, starring and directed by Luc Picard; EVELYNE, a tender story of an African immigrant finding a friend in Vancouver starring Zimbabwean actress Rumbie Muzofa and, director Carl Bessai himself, and the controversial INÈS, a tale of paternal abuse directed by Renée Beaulieu and starring Roy Dupuis and Rosalie Bonenfant.

(Still from Cinema of Sleep)

National Festival VOD Premieres in the Borsos Competition include CINEMA OF SLEEP directed by Jeffrey St. Jules, a dreamlike thriller set in a motel room from the director of BANG BANG BABY (WFF 2014); DRINKWATER, Stephen Campanelli’s funny BC-set coming-of-age story, featuring Eric McCormack; LUNE starring and directed by Aviva Armour-Ostroff & co-directed by Arturo Perez Torres, a sometimes humorous and touching look at bipolar disorder and apartheid; L'INHUMAIN directed by Jason Brennan, the first genre film shot entirely in French by an Indigenous production team; and RUN WOMAN RUN directed by Zoe Hopkins, a frequently funny Indigenous feature about a slovenly diabetic girl who is inspired to train for foot races and get in shape by the spirit of an ancestor.

(still from NOUVEAU QUÉBEC)

English Canadian premieres in the Borsos Competition include NOUVEAU QUÉBEC directed by Sarah Fortin, about a couple’s trip to sell the chalet she has inherited from her father in Schefferville, a dying Northern Quebec mining community; and THE NOISE OF ENGINES (LE BRUIT DES MOTEURS), winner of the Quebecor Prize at the recent Festival du nouveau cinéma and directed by Philippe Grégoire, about a border patrol officer who returns home after a sex scandal.

The Canadian Premiere of WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, is not only actor Katie Boland’s directorial debut, she also plays twin sisters who mostly can’t stand each other. Boland wrote the screenplay based on the book by Amy Jones.

(still from Peace By Chocolate--probably my favorite movie title this year)

Borsos Competition National VOD Festival Premieres include DAWN, HER DAD & THE TRACTOR, a first film directed by Shelley Thompson and featuring transgender actor (Maya V. Henry, with over 200,000 YouTube subscribers) in the lead role of a Maritimer who leaves as a man and returns home as Dawn for her mother’s funeral. PEACE BY CHOCOLATE by director Jonathan Keijser is a warm-hearted ode to immigration done right, as it tells the true-life story of a family of Syrian refugees who attempt to open a chocolate factory in their new adoptive Maritime home. It will premiere online on Christmas Day following in-theatre runs on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 in Whistler.

WFF’s Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature jury comprises a diverse group of Canadian storytellers, three of whom have had previous films screened at WFF. The jury includes Sturla Gunnarsson, a Canadian screen director whose work moves fluidly between fiction and non-fiction. His feature films, TV drama, comedy and documentary films have won scores of awards including an Emmy©, the Prix Italia, multiple Canadian Screen Awards, Directors Guild Awards and an Oscar© nomination. Recent work includes the CBC/Netflix comedy, Schitt’s Creek; Tanya Lapointe, co-founder of Productions Sur le Toit (PSLT) and producer and director of THE PAPER MAN, which won the 2020 Whistler Film Festival Audience Award. She is also the executive producer on DUNE directed by Denis Villeneuve, with whom she worked on ARRIVAL and BLADE RUNNER 2049. Sergio Navarretta, an internationally award-winning director who co-founded production company S.N.A.P. Films Inc., with a view to telling entertaining and meaningful stories on screen. He has helmed three dramatic features, including THE CUBAN (WFF19 Borsos Award Winner for Best Cinematography), starring Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. and Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo, comedy-drama THE COLOSSAL FAILURE OF THE MODERN RELATIONSHIP and the true historical drama, LOOKING FOR ANGELINA, and Damon D’Oliveira, co-partner with Clement Virgo for Conquering Lion’s Pictures whose films have been distributed internationally and selected for festivals around the world. His first feature, RUDE, had its world premiere in Official Selection, Un Certain Regard, at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. Since then, Damon has produced some of Canada’s most innovative feature films, including POOR BOY’S GAME, LIE WITH ME, LOVE COME DOWN, H, and THE GRIZZLIES. His recent titles THE REST OF US and HONEY BEE also both screened at WFF19. Damon’s miniseries adaptation of The Book of Negroes, distributed to historic ratings on CBC and has won 12 Canadian Screen Awards, earned two nominations for U.S. Critics Choice Television Awards, four NAACP Image Awards and was a finalist for the 2016 Peabody Award.

This year’s online Canadian selections feature films from just about every corner of the country, with two films from Nova Scotia, five films from Quebec, five from Ontario, two films from Manitoba, two from Alberta and four films from British Columbia. One film was shot at the 55th parallel, the southern boundary of Nunavik territory in Quebec.

Special presentations and more...

WFF’s Special Presentations feature some of the strongest titles in this year’s festival. THE CARD COUNTER, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish, is another classic story of an outsider seeking redemption from the writer of RAGING BULL and TAXI DRIVER. It is also nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Actor at this year’s Gotham Awards. Paolo Sorrentino’s THE HAND OF GOD, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Venice Film Festival, is a coming-of-age story set in tumultuous Naples in the 1980s. Jane Campion’s first film in twelve years, THE POWER OF THE DOG, is a Cain and Abel-type western featuring acclaimed performances by Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, and Kirsten Dunst. It was recognized with the Silver Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival.

WFF is pleased to present an exciting line-up of ten documentaries, many of them with a focus on women’s issues.

Titles include A WICKED EDEN directed by Naddine Madell, a wickedly intelligent look at the women who run online femdom porn sites, with a particular focus on Goddess Alexandra Snow; POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHE, a biography of punk icon Marianne Joan Elliott-Said (stage name Poly Styrene), directed by her daughter Celeste Bell (with Paul Sng); $AVVY, a must-see documentary on how women can attain financial independence, directed by Robin Hauser; PRECIOUS LEADER WOMAN directed by Cassie De Colling, a biography of Whistler local, Indigenous snowboarder Spencer O’Brien and how she copes when rheumatoid arthritis disrupts her competitive career; and the World Premiere of THE SECRET SOCIETY directed by Rebecca Campbell, about the illegal lengths that Canadian women have to go to if they wish to purchase third-party eggs to help them overcome infertility. A shocking exposé of a practice that is legal in most other countries.

Other documentaries includeTHE SOUND OF US, directed by Chris Gero, a reminder of the importance of music in our lives and how we have missed it over the last two years, with interviews and riveting performances with the likes of Patti Smith and Sarah MacLachlan; TZOUHALEM, directed by Harold C. Joe & Leslie D. Bland, a stunning documentary using animation and archive/interview material to tell the story of the fiercest Cowichan Chief warrior to ever wage battle along the BC coast; the World Premiere of PAT ROCCO DARED made by the Vancouver-based team of Morris Chapdelaine and Bob Christie, that sheds light on a veritable pioneer of gay filmmaking who was responsible for the first commercially released gay films seen by the general public and the first on-screen kiss between two men; Robert Carr’s DIFFERENT JOHNS looks at iconoclast John Cohen, who chronicled Appalachian roots music, photographed early Bob Dylan and was part of the Beat Generation group with Jack Kerouac et al.; and BURIED, every skier’s nightmare, this documentary chronicles a major avalanche and its after-effects at the Alpine Meadows ski resort, directed by Jared Drake and Steven Siig.

The World Documentary jury includes Cheryl Foggo, a multiple award-winning playwright, author and filmmaker, whose work over the last 30 years has focused on the lives of Western Canadians of African descent; Robert Hardy, President of Fireworks Media Group, a seasoned television writer and producer, is also the producer and showrunner of Netflix documentary series Big Timber and Rust Valley Restorers; and Laura Perlmutter, a producer at Sienna Films/Sphere Media, one of Canada’s preeminent scripted content companies. She recently produced the feature documentary ONE OF OURS, winner of the Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs 2021.

The Films From Away strand features ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME (UK) directed by Andrew Gaynord, a dark British comedy, picked up by Neon Pictures in the US; GAGARINE (France) a bit of magical realism set in a housing development about to be torn down that our last remaining squatter wants to turn into a spaceship, directed by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh, winners of the Best Director Award at the Athens International Film Festival; and, THE PINK CLOUD (Brazil) a prophetic study of a couple who just met, forced to live together over a long period of time due to lockdown measures in South America. A Grand Prix winner at the Sofia International Film Festival, it is directed by Iuli Gerbase.

WFF’s American Indies strand is particularly cutting-edge and inventive this year. Films include:18 ½, a fun thriller about a young woman who comes to possess the missing audio recording from the notorious Nixon Tapes directed by WFF favourite Dan Mirvish; JOCKEY, directed by Clint Bentley, featuring extraordinary performances by Clifton Collins Jr. (who won a Special Jury award for Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival) and Molly Parker, a story of an aging horse jockey done in the style of THE RIDER; LOVE IS LOVEIS LOVE three vignettes about female relationships, starring Kathy Baker, Rosanna Arquette, Cybill Shepherd and Rita Wilson, directed by Eleanor Coppola; MOON MANOR directed by filmmaking duo Kniferock (Erin Granat & Machete Bang Bang), a surprisingly joyous celebration of a gay man’s life as witnessed by friends invited to his assisted death “fun-eral”; MY DEAD DAD directed by Fabio Frey, in which a young skateboarder inherits a property from his estranged Dad and comes to see him in a whole different light through the eyes of his tenants; and THIS IS NOT A WARSTORY, a searing drama that really gets under your skin, as war vets suffering from PTSD find solace in community and in art projects, insightfully directed by Talia Lugacy.

Mountain Culture selections comprise two competing documentaries, BURIED and PRECIOUS LEADER WOMAN and the Festival’s CLOSING NIGHT film CHASING THE LINE. Additional competing entries can be found in the Mountain Culture Shorts programme featuring six titles.

This year’s Mountain Culture jury includes WFF Alumnus (THE RADICALS) and Squamish local Brian Hockenstein, a cinematographer and independent documentary filmmaker, known for capturing stunning images that tell deep and meaningful stories; Caroline Hedin, who spent a decade as a digital storytelling specialist with Parks Canada, and now works with her co-founded company Transmission Media to continue making adventure stories; and Carrie Yap, a milliner by trade based in Calgary, she is a producer and designer for Yap Sisters studio.


WFF is excited to unveil six ShortWorks programmes consisting of 41 short films from Canada and around the world that highlight the creativity, diversity, and strength of storytelling in the short form. The programme kicks off with celebrated filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk’s mesmerizing animated work “Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice", which has already won top prizes at TIFF, ImagiNATIVE, and Ottawa International Animation Film Festivals. ShortWorks features rising Canadian stars, including new work from CSA-recognized filmmakers Alicia K. Harris, Omolola Rachel Ajao, Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers, Carmine Pierre-Dufour, and Lee Filipovski, and an expanded selection of international films representing an impressive 13 countries.

“From provocative narratives to distinctive animation, dark comedy to compelling documentaries, the films in the ShortWork selection proudly showcase innovative storytelling from established and emerging film talents from around the world that are sure to inspire and entertain Whistler audiences,” says Lisa Haller, WFF Senior Short Film Programmer.

Shining a spotlight on BC talent with 19 shorts at the fest, we are thrilled to present the World Premieres of alumni Heather Perluzzo’s MPPIA award-winning script “Wildflower”; Cam MacArthur’s new documentary “Before They Fall”; Tesh Guttikonda’s Crazy8s production “Mom Vs Machine”; as well as debuts from producer Mack Stannard (“Joe Buffalo”) and student filmmakers Ashley Yeung, and Arturo LeDuc.

The ShortWork Jury includes director, screenwriter, and social activist Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, who was awarded the inaugural 2020 TIFF x Shawn Mendes Foundation ChangeMaker Award for social change through film, the Jay Scott Prize by the Toronto Film Critics Association, and whose short film “Black Bodies” won Best Live Action Short at the 2021 Canadian Academy of Film and Television; WFF Alumni and founder of Aiken Heart Films, creative producer Coral Aiken, whose feature CARMEN will have its world premiere at the 2021 Whistler Film Festival; and film festival curator and strategy consultant, Kristine Estorninos, who was formerly the Head of Programming of Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and who currently manages international film and television in-flight content for airlines.

And the award goes to...

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ EDA Awards will be presented for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature, Best Female Directed Feature Documentary and for Best Female-Directed Short Film. Eligible female-directed films are being screened as part of the festival’s regular program and are nominated for EDA Awards consideration by the Whistler Film Festival’s programmers. The Narrative Feature jury includes Liz Braun (Toronto Sun), Sandie Angulo Chen (Washington Post), Tara Karajica (Indiewire), Jennifer Merin (Chair, AWFJ.org). The jury for feature-length Best Female-Directed Documentary includes: Ulkar Alakbarova (MoviesMoveMe.com), Leba Hertz (San Francisco Chronicle), Karen Martin (Chair, Arkansas Democrat Gazette), Tara McNamara (Common Sense Media), and the EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Short includes Marina Antunes (Chair, Quiet Earth), Betsy Bozdech (San Francisco Chronicle), Marilyn Ferdinand (CineFile), and Kathia Woods (Cup of Soul).

The Best BC Directors Award, presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia, recognizes the achievements of a British Columbia director with a feature film at the festival and is nominated for DGC-BC’s consideration by the Whistler Film Festival’s programmers.

All narrative and documentary feature-length films in the Whistler Film Festival are eligible to receive the Audience Awards as voted by festival attendees.

The Whistler Film Festival Awards will be announced in an online presentation on Sunday, December 19 at 12pm PT. The Audience Award will be announced December 28, 2021.

About WFF:

The 21st edition of the Whistler Film Festival will be presented as a hybrid event in Whistler, December 1 to 5 and online December 1 to 31. In-person screenings, Content Summit and events take place in Whistler, British Columbia, from December 1 to 5. From December 1 to 31, audiences across Canada will be able to stream 81 films, access filmmaker Q&As, and attend a virtual Awards Celebration in true Whistler style.

WFF will deliver its Content Summit from December 1 to 10, as a unique hybrid industry event, presenting a snapshot of the most transformative ideas shaping the future of screen entertainment. With over 34 sessions, including keynote conversations, masterclasses, workshops, fireside chats, roundtables, and 1+1 Virtual Market meetings featuring forward thinkers, innovators, and decision-makers, there's something for every interest. 1+1 Virtual Market Meetings registration is now open to Industry and Premium Industry Passholders. Register now.

Whistler’s hybrid model is informed by The Future of Film Festival study conducted by Whistler Film Festival and Nordicity with financial support from The Canada Council for the Arts and Telefilm Canada released in June 2020. See the report at https://whistlerfilmfestival.com/research/

The WFF online box office at whistlerfilmfestival.com/tickets/ is open for Tickets, Passes and Ticket Packages for both online streaming and in-theatre films. 50% of net proceeds from online ticket revenues will be shared with the filmmakers or Canadian rights holders. The Festival Box Office is open for phone sales (1-877-838-FILM). Planning to attend the Whistler Film Festival in person? Air travel, ground transportation deals and early bird accommodation rates from WFF’s accommodation partners are available at https://whistlerfilmfestival.com/attendwff/. Provincial health protocols are in effect and proof of vaccination will be required to enter WFF venues.

The Whistler Film Festival is funded by the Government of Canada through Telefilm Canada, by the Province of British Columbia and the Resort Municipality of Whistler. We gratefully acknowledge our major festival sponsors: Creative BC, Variety, Directors Guild of Canada-British Columbia, Tourism Whistler, Netflix, Canada Media Fund and William F. White International.

Discover more at whistlerfilmfestival.com.

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