The 18th annual Whistler Film Festival (WFF), taking place from November 28 to December 2, announced today its opening night film and full program lineup. Selected from over 1,000 submissions, festival goers can look forward to 85 fresh films including 50 features and 35 shorts representing 12 countries. Selections for this year’s festival include leading award season fare, quality Canadian content (69% of the lineup) and more female-directed films than ever before (46% of the lineup). ‘Canada’s coolest film fest’ remains true to its mandate of discovering new talent, with the inclusion of 16 first time feature films, 21 feature films directed by women, and with 64% of its program premiering Canadian features, more than any other international Canadian film festival this year. Plus, WFF’s juries feature some of the industry’s top talent, who will present 14 film awards and $146,500 in cash and prizing ($31,500 cash and $115,000 in prizes).
WFF is set to open this year with Josie Rourke’s MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, starring two of last year’s Oscar nominated best actresses, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. Rourke’s breathtakingly beautiful directorial debut explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Ronan), and her struggle to reclaim her rightful throne as Queen of Scotland, then under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Robbie).
Closing the festival is the Canadian Premiere of groundbreaking surf documentary MOMENTUM GENERATION. Directed by Academy Award-shortlisted and Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmakers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, the documentary follows the biggest names in surfing, including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb and the late Todd Chesser. Executive produced by Sundance founder Robert Redford with stunning archival footage from the godfather of surf films Taylor Steele, MOMENTUM GENERATION gives audiences an inside look at the lives of these teenagers as they rose to super stardom as the first competitive surfers.
WFF is proud to screen six award season contenders including hosting the Canadian premieres of ON THE BASIS OF SEX, Mimi Leder’s topical biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg played by Felicity Jones, and Robert Budreau’s STOCKHOLM with Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace. The festival will also feature Western Canadian Premieres of AT ETERNITY’S GATE, director Julian Schnabel’s take on the life on Vincent Van Gogh played by Willem Dafoe; IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, the first film from director Barry Jenkins since winning the Academy Award for Best Picture with MOONLIGHT; Alfonso Cuarón’s masterful ROMA, which – for the first time ever at WFF – will be shown in 4k projection and 7.2 sound; and FAMILY FIRST(CHIEN DE GARDE) directed by Sophie Dupuis, Canada’s entry in this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar category.
Other highlights include the World Premiere of Borsos Jury member Bruce McDonald’s CLAIRE’S HAT, an unprecedented filmic mea culpa about the making of the 2001 fiasco PICTURE CLAIRE. This funny, insightful and brilliantly reconstructed exploration documents what went wrong during the shooting of McDonald’s biggest budget movie to date. Direct from its premiere at Telluride, Brigitte Berman’s HUGH HEFNER’S AFTER DARK: SPEAKING OUT IN AMERICA, features a treasure trove of archival footage with everyone from Lenny Bruce to Moms Mabley.
Director of Programming Paul Gratton stated: ”It is gratifying to note that the Whistler Film Festival continues to improve on the quality of its film offerings at the same time that it is growing its representation of female directed movies. It is not just at the first-time features end of the spectrum that female directors continue to shine at Whistler, many of our top titles are directed by women. The quality of our Canadian submissions are the best ever, with major directors such as Bruce McDonald, Brigitte Berman, Maxime Giroux, Gary Burns, Sébastien Pilote and Robert Budreau entrusting us with their latest films. The Borsos jury will have a particularly challenging time picking the winners this year.”
Programming strands include American Indies, Canadian Vanguard, Contenders, Doc Bloc, First Features, From Overseas, From The Vault, Mountain Culture, ShortWork, and World Premieres.
This year, WFF is proud to boast that four of its five films in its American Indies strand will grace Canadian screens for the first time in Whistler. Titles include Wendy McColm’sfunny and bittersweet BIRDS WITHOUT FEATHERS; Adisa’s horrifying look at sex trafficking in SKIN IN THE GAME; Alex Harvey’s brilliant WALDEN: LIFE IN THE WOODS with Oscar nominee Demián Bichir; and Emma Forrest’s moving UNTOGETHER, with Jamie Dornan (50 SHADES OF GREY), Jemima Kirke, Lola Kirke, Ben Mendelsohn and Jennifer Grey. Finally, Sebastián Silva’s TYREL features Michael Cera in a story about a lone black man on otherwise all-white weekend of drunken bro debauchery on a birthday trip to a cabin in the Catskills.
It’s not just Americans entrusting WFF with their Canadian premieres as WFF proudly presents the international premiere of WFF’s Canada-China co-production alumnus Lutao Wang’s first feature KARMA, and the Canadian Premiere of the Norwegian disaster movie THE QUAKE, featuring the same characters that survived THE WAVE, a 2015 hit that played at WFF.