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Threading Up the 2008 Whistler Film Festival

One Week - Opening the 2008 edition of the Whistler Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

It was a dark and stormy highway at about 9:30pm on a Sunday night sometime in early December 2007…and I thought I was about to die. I was on a Greyhound commute from Whistler BC heading down to Vancouver and the roads were so treacherous that I felt like the bus is going to slide off the road at any moment and drop into an abyss of snow. They wouldn’t find our bodies for three weeks.

And had I died, I would have loved for my gravestone to read “He died because he loved the movies.”

And boy did I love my first year at the 2007 Whistler Film Festival. Despite that horrible, skidding bus ride back down the mountain last year, I am risking it all to come right back to check out the festival once more, because that’s just what I do. The 2007 edition brought together an immense amount of talent and good movies at one of the most beautiful spots in the world in just a few days. Plus Leelee Sobieski was there.

As I pointed out last year, this is from a Sundance wanna-be or “Sundance of the North”. This is a four day celebration of cinema that parties in its own, unique way. In fact, on Saturday morning before the first screening of the day, there’s a celebrity ski challenge that was as much fun to attend and photograph as the films that I saw that day. The focus of the films are more Canadian centric, including several short packages to go along with the features, and programmer Bill Evans has booked an impressive slate of films that are for the most part premieres or high caliber end of year films. The festival slowly ascends in numbers every year, and I know several media outlets and festivalgoers are going this year for the first time on my recommendation alone. For those in the neighborhood and are even slightly interested, come on up! Hotels are reasonable at this time of year and the festival is relatively inexpensive for what you get.

This year’s festival opens with Canadian film “One Week” at the Whistler Conference Centre. From director Michael McGowan (“Saint Ralph”, “My Dog Vincent”), it tells the story of a cancer ridden man in his 20’s who travels from Toronto to Tofino to find himself and has many notable stops along the way. The feature plays alongside the annual selection of “Whistler Stories” which are five minute short subjects from local filmmakers. The opening gala screening at the conference centre is an event not to miss. “One Week” will be projected in high-definition in this 2,000 seat behemoth of a hall with a terrific sound system, and the following party is right in the same building. It’s a mighty impressive venue, and will be used throughout the weekend for forum panels and two tributes, one to the late producer William Vince (Friday) and the other for noted actor and filmmaker Donald Sutherland (Saturday).

The main film venues up in Whistler are the Rainbow Theater and the Whistler Village 8. New to me last year, I was able to study the operations of both and see how they tick.

The Rainbow is a slightly older theater that has a fairly cool charm to it. It has a pretty decent sized screen to go along with seats that have tray tables on top. Alamo Drafthouse this ain’t, but it is still a cool touch and has been a cinema and performance venue for many years. And they serve these amazing warm pretzels, so that takes care of your movie snacking right there.

The Whistler Village 8 isn’t your typical shoe-box stadium plex, rather it is this unique row of eight small theaters, anywhere between the 55 to 150 seat range, that have comfortable seats and a solid selection of programming year round. The majority of the films screen here, and there is plenty of room inside to lineup before the show, so don’t worry about having to wait in the sub-zero temperature to get a ticket. It’s also the most expensive cinema in British Columbia (tied with the Scotiabank in Vancouver), at $12.50 it is a notable price to pay but at least you get something worthy out of it.

Best bets for the festival include:

- “Last Chance Harvey”, one of the year-end Oscar hopefuls with Dustin Hoffman as a man who gets a second chance on his life when he meets a woman in a coffee shop in London. The fact the woman is played by Emma Thompson only ads to the buzz on this film.

- “RIP A Remix Manifesto” is about the whole music copyright and fair use in today’s music climate. This National Film Board of Canada doc, which features the fascinating character Greg Gillis, better known to the online world as Girl Talk, will be distributed in Canada early in the new year.

- “Nurse Fighter Boy” which is produced by Ingrid Veninger (who co-directed “Only” which screened at VIFF this year) is a small character piece about three different people across all age groups.

- “Yonkers Joe” an American indie featuring about con men and the bizarre bounds of family, featuring Chazz Palmenteri, Christine Lahti and Tom Guiry.

- The Fantastic Fest hit “Surveillance” with Bill Pullman. While Mr. Pullman won’t be up in Whistler partying it up the way he did in Austin, it is screening in the popular 9pm slot on Friday and should be a sold out event.

- “Waltz With Bashir” which was one of my favorite films at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival and may become an unusual contender for this year’s Best Animated Film or Best Foreign Language feature.

Also from VIFF this year are the Canadian produced but Ireland set dramedy “Stone of Destiny” from director Charles Martin Smith, and the dark, resonating “Fifty Dead Man Walking” from Kari Skogland (“The Stone Angel”), and many short subject films that screened at VIFF as well.

Running alongside the films are some rather interesting events, including the Celebrity Ski Challenge on Saturday atop of Whistler Mountain, the annual film forum, the awards bruncheon and several high-end parties, all of which I enjoyed last year and hope to do so again this year. I make mention of this because for the first time in my festival coverage on efilmcritic, I plan to actually do an online diary about my experiences this year and include some photos. Stay tuned over the weekend!

For more information on the Whistler Film Festival and where to purchase tickets, point your browser to the official website HERE. Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2628
originally posted: 12/04/08 19:18:08
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