The Whistler Insider

Whistler Film Festival – 7 Flicks Not To Miss


Whistler is full of outdoor enthusiasts who hike, climb, ski, ride and jump off of more stuff before lunch than most people do in a year but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy occasionally parking our butts in a movie theatre seat to take in a good bank-robber story, puppet documentary or futuristic cyborg-punk-breakdance extravanganza.

The 11th annual Whistler Film Festival delivers all that and a popcorn bag full of options this November 30 to December 4 when film-lovers and top industry types converge for 83 films, four gala parties, 2 snow-covered mountains, some tributes, celebrities, workshops and two days of free Pixar cartoons at the Whistler Olympic plaza.

As Whistler Insider editor I’ve been lucky enough to preview some of the films and will also be reporting live online throughout the WFF so stay tuned to our Go Whistler Facebook page as events happen.
In the meantime, here are a few films not to miss.

Highway Gospel (Canada, 97 minutes)
When – Thursday December 1, 11:00PM
Where – Whistler Conference Centre
Cost – $15
A skateboard documentary with equal parts excitement, hubris and heart, Highway Gospel focuses on longboarders bombing down the steep and gnarly hills of British Columbia and a middle-aged skater fighting to keep his local park open across the country in Ottawa. Both story arcs are pretty raw but they show the dedication and love of skateboarding along with some humour, insight and skate-or-die badassery.

The Sorcerer and the White Snake (China, 96 minutes)
When – Friday December 2, 9:30PM
Where – Whistler Village 8
Cost – $15
Kung-Fu rules and although this fantasy/action hybrid has more mystical magic than straight-up butt kicking it’s still a visual smorgasbord directed by longtime Hong Kong action master Tony Sui-tung Ching. Two half-snake, half-woman sisters intertwine themselves into the life of a young herbalist and things go downhill fast once sorcerer monk Fa Hei (Jet Li) discovers the unholy union. The Whistler Film Fest has some big news to announce this year about a new relationship with Chinese cinema so hopefully that means we can expect more Kung-Fu in Whistler’s future.

Pixar in the Plaza
When – Friday & Saturday December 2-3, 4PM
Where – Whistler Olympic Plaza
Cost – FREE
Described by WFF co-founder Shauna Hardy as, “like après-ski, for kids” the Pixar screenings at the Whistler Olympic Plaza will showcase 14 short films from the multi-award winning studio behind such classics as Finding Nemo, Monsters INC, UP, Toy Story and just about every other animated film of note in the last decade. With heaters set up in the plaza, hot chocolate, great cartoons and Whistler Insider editor Feet Banks (who himself is really just a child grown old) playing host it’s safe to say that “kids’ après” might attract just as many adults as well.

Manborg (Canada, 60 minutes)
When – Friday December 2, 11:30PM
Where – Whistler Conference Centre
Cost – $15
Whistler has an entire subculture of b-grade film fans who will certainly find the art and beauty in a film about a soldier who dies and wakes up as a powerful cyborg in a world overrun by demon warlords. Directed by Winnipeg’s Steven Kostanski, Manborg is a real throwback to 80s laundromat VHS culture and films like CHUD or Robocop. Manborg is preceded by two of Kostanski’s short films Lazer Ghosts 2- Return to Laser Cove and Heart of Karl. Gotta love the Late Night screenings.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (USA, 79 minutes)
When – Thursday December 1, 4PM & Sunday December 4, 1:15PM
Where – Whistler Village 8 (Thurs) & Whistler Conference Centre (Sun)
Cost – $12

Everyone over the age of about 7 months old probably knows who Elmo is (and if you don’t—he’s that red puppet from Sesame Street) but by following the story of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who brings Elmo to life, audiences are treated to a special treat—an insider’s look at the world of Muppets, puppets and the creative minds who make the magic. In an era of hugely expensive animated features grossing record box office earnings it’s interesting to see how much more humanity we can wring from a few pieces of felt, fake fur, wire and a dedicated artist .

Opening Gala—Spotlight Award for Best Supporting Performance of the Year and Special Screening of Young Adult (USA,95 minutes)
When – Wednesday November 30, Doors 7:30PM, Screening 9:00PM
Where – Whistler Conference Centre
Cost – $30
This one should be a party. Prolific comic/actor/writer Patton Oswalt is being rewarded for tapping into his more dramatic side in Jason Reitman’s new film Young Adult, which screens after the award presentation. Reitman is on a bit of a roll, (Thank you for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air) and this time out he’s re-teaming with Juno scribe Diablo Cody for a tale of a writer (Charlize Theron) who returns to her small-town home in an attempt to win back her high school sweetheart. Since things in movies rarely go as planned she ends up with the class geek and delivers coming of age story for the “boomerang” generation. Hopefully Reitman and Cody can recapture some of that stylized realism and snappy dialogue that won Juno an Academy Award.

Closing Gala—Warren Miller’s Like There’s No Tomorrow preceded by The Freedom Chair
When – Sunday Dec 4, Doors 7PM Showtime 8PM
Where – Whistler Conference Centre
Cost – $20
Whistler is pretty film-savvy but WFF organizers haven’t lost sight of the fact that this is a ski town and ski movies are movies too. Like There’s No Tomorrow is not your grandfather’s Warren Miller film—there’s no six-minute gag reel of people falling down while trying to unload from the chairlift or an extended “kids and T-bars” reel. Instead Miller’s employees deliver some heavy duty ski and snowboard action with glimpses into some of the personalities who live winter to its fullest year after year after year.
Preceding the Main event is Whistler local Mike Douglas’ short The Freedom Chair an incredibly heart-stirring film about sit-ski ripper Josh Dueck. I’ve lived in Whistler for 23 years and seen dozens of films about the heart and soul of mountains and skiing and nothing comes close to this film for subtle-yet-poignant emotional impact. The Freedom Chair should not be missed. Nor should the end-of-festival party that follows. See you there.

Of course, I could go on all day. There are too many highlight films and events to truly do justice to but the best thing to do is pick up a festival guide in town or find one at their website.
See you in the theatre.