With 86 films, 23 World premieres, and a whole slew of incredible Canadian talent on screen, it's easy to get slightly overwhelmed by all the awesomeness coming to town for the 16th annual Whistler Film Festival. One way to avoid this is to simply hunker down and spend the entire five days of the fest glued to a theatre seat, catching as much of the action as possible while a personal assistant keeps your popcorn bucket full.
Few will commit to this option however (who can afford a personal popcorn assistant these days), plus the ski hill is open, so the Insider went straight to the source and contacted WFF programming director Paul Gratton for some of his top picks of the fest. Enjoy!
An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman(Dir. Ken Finkleman. Canada. Canadian Premiere)
Gratton says, "When I first say this I thought it was an over-the-top piece of political satire, but in light of the recent election it now seems prescient to me, it has a lot more resonance after the Trump win. A city council brags about how they did away with their metal detectors to save $10K a year because 'everyone is bringing their guns anyway.' It's about corruption, guns, big business and is a vicious political satire from Ken Finkleman."
An American Dream plays Thursday December 1, 2016 and Sunday Dec 4, 2016 at the Village 8 Cinemas.
Free Fire(Dir. Ben Wheatley, United Kingdom. Western Canadian Premiere)
"There's a segment of the Whistler audience that really responds to style, and stylish violence. This one was the winner of the People's Choice Award at the Midnight Madness at TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival]. It's just an absolutely crazy, violent, funny film about a deal between gun suppliers and the IRA, and the deal goes sour. And then everything goes sour.
I saw this at TIFF, I saw 50 films there but only 7 of the films we are screening in Whistler showed at TIFF, including a few high-end titles like La La Land and Lion. But we try to differentiate, we don't want to be TIFF west, which is why we have films like Miss Sloane and 20th Century Women which didn't play there."
Free Fire plays Thursday December 1, 2016 and Friday December 2, 2016 at the Rainbow Theatre and Sunday December 4, 2016 at the Whistler Village 8.
Second Time Around(Dir. Leon Marr, Canada. North American Premiere)
"This is the opposite of Free Fire. A romance that I think the older crowd will love. It stars Linda Thorsan from The Avengers TV show and Stuart Margo from The Rockford Files. The story is about an older lady who gets put in a retirement home, somewhat against her will, and the last thing she expects is to fall in love with a crotchety old dude in there. But romance is available to anyone isn't it?"
Second Time Around plays Friday December 2, 2016 and Sunday December 4, 2016 at Maury Young Arts Centre.
Going Further(Documentary, USA/Canada. Canadian Premiere)
"This is just one of the many standout documentaries this year but I think Whistler will like this. It's about a Merry Pranksters bus tour put together 50 years later by Ken Kesey's son Zan and they travel around in a bus to investigate how the counter culture is faring a half a century after Kesey's heyday."
Going Further plays Saturday December 3, 2016 and Sunday December 4, 2016 at the Whistler Village 8.
Victor Walk(Dir. Michael David Lynch, Canada/USA. Canadian Premiere)
"This Doc is about this walk along Highway 7 from Toronto to Ottawa to draw attention to the victims of sexual abuse. It was put together by ex-NHL star Theo Fleury who was assaulted by one of his junior hockey coaches. Theo is coming to the fest and he has an axe to grind with the statistics of how many women and men are abused. The stats are astounding and Theo really empowers people. What makes it timely is his old coach was convicted of a bunch of crimes and he got out last month after just one year of jail time."
Victor Walk plays Thursday December 1, 2016 at the Maury Young Arts Centre and Friday December 2, 2016 at the Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre.
Middle Man(Dir. Ned Crowly, USA. British Columbia Premiere)
"This is an off beat, independent that I almost died laughing when I saw it. It's about a fat, sweaty, uncharismatic momma's boy who dreams of being a stand-up comic. After his mom dies he heads to Vegas to get an open mic but he's a bit delusional. He picks up a hitchhiker along the way who happens to be a serial killer and after bombing a gig in a small down and drinking away his sorry the guy wakes up in the morning with the body of a heckler from the night before in his trunk. The killer convinces him that he committed murder so he has to ditch the body and when he hits the stage the next night he's in shock and is talking about it but the audience thinks it's the most original comedy they have seen. So he gets his wish, but how do you feed the material. This one reflects the American sensibility in entertainment really well."
Middle Man plays Friday December 2, 2016 and Sunday December 4, 2016 at the Whistler Village 8.
Population Zero (Dir. Adam Levins, Canada. Canadian Premiere)
"This one is really cool. It's a mock documentary that is based on fact. The filmmakers have discovered a loophole in American Constitutional law that would basically allow you to get away with murder. They stumble across it while investigating a murder in Yellowstone National Park and these crazy filmmakers structured their film around it. I don't want to give too much away but it's neat."
Population Zero plays Friday December 2, 2016 at the Whistler Village 8.
This is only a fraction of the good stuff on screen and you get the feeling that Paul could go on forever. He also mentions that La La Land, the opening film of the festival, is a strong contender for the Best Picture Oscar and that 15 of the 48 features screening are directed by women, 13 of the features are by first-time filmmakers and the films are over 65% Canadian-made. See you at the movies.
For more info on the Whistler Film Festival including where to get tickets, schedules and accommodation so you can catch the late night sessions, hit up Whistler.com