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Canada’s Coolest Film Festival’ Wraps
Whistler Film Festival wraps 15th edition with more high-profile premieres, attendees, and talent than ever before. CAROL takes the WFF Audience Award.
Whistler, B.C. (December 8, 2015) : The 15th anniversary celebration of the Whistler Film Festival wrapped Sunday night, living up to its title as ‘Canada’s coolest film fest’ by hosting more premieres, filmmakers, industry executives, and celebrities than ever before, including unique experiences from films, music and parties to high adrenaline races.
The Whistler Film Festival’s Pandora Audience Award went to British-American romantic drama CAROL, directed by Todd Haynes from the screenplay by Phyllis Nagy (Variety 10 Screenwriters to Watch class of 2014) starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which received its Canadian premiere at Whistler. The WFF Audience Award runner-ups were THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON, character- actor Robert Carlyle’s first theatrical feature and directorial debut, which received its North American premiere at the festival, followed by Ricardo Trogi’s mid -life crisis dramedy, Quebec film LE MIRAGE, the highest grossing and most popular Canadian film of the year so far. The WFF Audience Award is a non-cash prize presented to the highest-rated film as voted by the audience.
Paul Gratton, Director of Programming had this to say about this year’s event: “We were very fortunate to open this year’s fest with the Canadian premiere of CAROL, a film we are convinced will be a major contender in this year’s awards season race. The festival took off from there, with many sold out screenings, packed and newsworthy industry sessions, and over 450 guests who made a point of trekking out to beautiful Whistler to support their films and talk business with the high- level movers and shakers also in attendance. 2015 represented another step forward towards making WFF the coolest festival in the world. Can’t wait ’til next year.”
Total attendance for this year’s fest was 13,233 attendees (a 18% increase over 11,273 in 2014). This included 7,740 film-screening attendees and 3,533 special event attendees (Signature Series, Music Café, ShortWork Showcase, R-Rated Party, Awards Brunch, L’Oreal Men Expert Bobsleigh Race and Celebrity Challenge Ski Race), in addition to 2,530 Summit attendees. Several of the feature films were at or near capacity, including: BORN TO BE BLUE, CHASING BANSKY, FORSAKEN, HOW TO PLAN AN ORGY IN A SMALL TOWN, LEGEND, LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMSON, NUMB, THE LADY IN THE VAN, THE STEPS, and TRUMBO.
Designed to facilitate international alliances and financial partnerships, WFF’s industry Summit program presented 30 interactive sessions that addressed a range of issues affecting the film, television, and digital media industry. Overall Summit attendance was at 86% capacity with 2,530 attendees (a 13% increase over 2,231 in 2014) including 855 delegates (on par with 2014). The Whistler Summit directly connects to WFF’s slate of project development programs designed to provide creative and business immersion experiences for 42 Canadian artists including its Feature Project Lab, Praxis Screenwriters Lab, Aboriginal Filmmaker Fellowship, and Music Café. WFF also collaborates with several industry organizations by hosting specific third party initiatives at the Whistler Summit including the Women in the Director’s Chair Industry Immersion, Women in Film Market Preparation Mentorship, and the MPPIA Short Film Award Pitch with the Motion Picture Production Industry Association and Creative BC. In addition to the 204 scheduled meetings (a 10% increase over 186 in 2014) that took place during the Summit, there was again a notable increase in unscheduled meetings that took place outside of scheduled blocks proving the festival remains an important place for the industry to meet and do business. Industry guests came from Canada, USA, UK, India, and China to participate, and included some of the top talent and executives in the business.
Film met music when Morning Show, one of the ten-featured BC artists from WFF’s Music Café, performed the live score for HE HATED PIGEONS. WFF’s Music Café, which expanded to include two showcases over two days and featured five music supervisors, was well received with several deals in the works and over 526 guests in attendance.
Toronto’s first-time feature director Jamie M. Dagg’s RIVER dominated Whistler prize-giving, winning for best Canadian feature, Best Director and Best Screenplay in the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature presented by the Directors Guild of Canada – British Columbia. The jury also awarded French-Canadian actor Paul Savoie with Best Performance in a Borsos Film for his performance in THE DIARY OF AN OLD MAN, as well as provided honourable mention for Rossif Sutherland’s work in RIVER and Laura Abramsen’s roles in BASIC HUMAN NEEDS and THE SABBATICAL. Lastly, Best Cinematography in a Borsos Film, presented by I.A.T.S.E. Local 669, went to cinematographer Dylan Macleod for HE HATED PIGEONS, directed by Ingrid Veninger. The Borsos Jury was comprised of three accomplished film industry artists that included the highly versatile director and screenwriter and WFF15 Alumni Carl Bessai (REHEARSAL), beloved actor and director Marc-André Grondin, and award-winning producer extraordinaire, Kim McCraw.
Other Whistler award winners included LAST HARVEST by first-time female director Hui (Jane) Wang that won the World Documentary Award presented by Tribute.ca with honourable mention for Brian D. Johnson’s AL PURDY WAS HERE . The Best Mountain Culture Film presented by Whistler Blackcomb went to Anthony Bonello’s ECLIPSE. The Canadian ShortWork Award went to WITHHELD directed by Johnathan Sousa, with an honourable mention to Amanda Strong and Bracken Hanuse Corlett’s MIA’. The International ShortWork Award was awarded to DISSONANCE by Germany filmmaker Till Nowak, with Langara College’s Canadian ShortWork Award for Best Screenplay given to Jem Garrard’s THE WOLF WHO CAME TO DINNER. Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Lawrence Lam won the ShortWork Student Award presented by Capilano University Film Centre for THE BLUE JET, and Maja Aro won the MPPIA Short Film Award for HOODS presented by MPPIA and Creative BC, which consists of a $15,000 cash award plus up to $100,000 in services. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) EDA Awards gave Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature to Valerie Weiss’ A LIGHT BENEATH THEIR FEET, Best Female-Directed Documentary to Hui (Jane) Wang’s LAST HARVEST, with a special mention for Brian D. Johnson’s AL PURDY WAS HERE. In addition, Céline Devaux’s SUNDAY LUNCH took home the Best Female-Directed Short Award.
Receiving WFF’s Trailblazer Award and Tribute presented by Pandora, British-born Canadian actor, film producer, and film director Kiefer Sutherland discussed his extensive acting career spanning film, stage and television, with CTV Film Critic Jim Gordon , followed by the Western Canadian Premiere of his latest film, FORSAKEN. Scottish-born Robert Carlyle, one of the most recognizable actors today, graced the Festival’s red carpet at this year’s Spotlight event as WFF’s Maverick Award honouree and sat down with Jim Gordon to discuss his bold choices that have led to the creation of some of the most dynamic, memorable, and beloved…
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