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Heading Up The Hill: Whistler Film Festival, 2012 Edition

"Still", Opening Whistler Film Fest 2012!
by Jason Whyte

High up in the mountains, every December, movie magic happens. The 12th edition of the Whistler Film Festival starts today and runs until Sunday, bringing Whistler attendees 70+ films, panels, parties and (hopefully) skiing in Whistler Village. Attending since 2007, yours truly has watched the event grow into one of the biggest, yet most intimate, festivals of them all. It is a glorious time.

I say "biggest, yet most intimate" as there is really no other way to describe it. While Whistler Village is a vacation destination it is just attended enough not to feel like a Sundance or Telluride, yet still maintain a strong identity on the film festival market. Whistler is still a small town at heart, and every year I love how everything is within walking distance. Pack your walking shoes and leave your car in the garage for five days.

The festivities begin tonight at the Whistler Conference Centre with a screening of Michael McGowan's "Still", starring James Cromwell as a husband fighting "the system" in New Brunswick when he is attempting to build a home for his ailing wife. Michael McGowan is no stranger to the Whistler Film Festival; both his earlier films "Saint Ralph" and "One Week" played here, and it will also be great to see Mr. James Cromwell in attendance at the festival tonight, walking the red carpet.

Following the opening night screening is the kickoff of the Late Night Terrorfest, sponsored by Anchor Bay. And boy does it kick off well. "American Mary", which had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest a few months ago, screens in the first late night slot. Filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska hail from Vancouver, and it was a pleasure to meet them and host a few of their screenings in Austin back in September. The Whistler screening, which will also present much of the cast and crew as the film was made here, promises to send off the first night in style. If that's not enough for you, there are also midnight screenings of documentary "The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh" and repetory screenings of classics "El Topo" and "Battle Royale"!

Also at the forefront of the festival is the annual Philip Borsos competition, where a group of Canadian films screen for a prestigious award at the end of the festival. Along with McGowan's "Still" opening the festival, there is also "All That You Posess" by Bernard Emond (he directed a Vancouver Film Fest favorite of mine called "Le Neuvaine"), two films from Sean Garrity called "Blood Pressure" and "My Akward Sexual Adventure", "Mad Ship" from director David Martin, "Fair Sex" by Quebec filmmaker Martin Laroche, "Home Again" from Sudz Sutherland (he directed "Love, Sex & Eating The Bones" which was a fest favorite) and Toronto filmmaker Kate Melville's directoral debut "Picture Day". The number of films is eight, up from six, so there is a bit more of a competition among filmmakers here.

Along with a special presentation of Joe Wright's new movie "Anna Karenina", there are also many great looking documentaries, mountain culture docs, short film packages and narrative features throughout the five days of the festival. Also included are the very important China Gateway program which features some strong imports from China, and the Whistler Summit which brings together top industry talent from the US and Canada.

Also featured at the festival are live conversations with Daniel Radcliffe (yes, Daniel Radcliffe of "Harry Potter" fame), Rashida Jones (here with a screening of "Celeste & Jesse Forever") and GKIDS founder Eric Beckman here with a special screening of "The Painting". Also a major feature at the festival is Variety's "Ten Screenwriters To Watch" award and "Argo" screenwriter Chris Terrio and "Twilight" scribe Melissa Rosenberg are among the talent present. And if that's not enough, the majority of all of these folk and attending filmmakers put on ski gear and go on a Celebrity Ski Challenge on Saturday. Glorious time, indeed.

The festival closing film is the aptly titled documentary "The Sheepdogs Have At It" on hit group The Sheepdogs based out of Saskatoon. The film features behind the scenes and concert footage as The Sheepdogs tour all over North America, and I'm looking forward to seeing director John Bernard's work on the big screen.

This is just a minor peek at the majority of events happening at Whistler this year. This may be the busiest Whistler yet, and it is going to be a glorious long weekend for film lovers. This also marks the first year that Whistler is entirely digital. The tiny Village 8 cinemas, which is a year round operation, is not a venue this year; still utilizing 35mm projection and very small rooms, the festival instead branches out a bit, including venues all over the main and upper village instead. How this plays with this year's movie schedule will be very interesting to see.

For more information on the Whistler Film Festival, including more information on the features and shorts in competition, ticket information and so forth, point your browser to

For more immediate coverage of this year's Whistler Film Festival, be sure to follow my Twitter feed @jasonwhyte for comments, mini-reviews and photos. Also follow me on Facebook for access to more pictures.

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 11/29/12 01:52:01
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