Whistler Film Festival Announces 2019 Line-up

“Canada's Coolest Film Fest” Kicks off on December 4th

You know it’s time to start prepping your New Year’s resolutions once Whistler Film Festival (WFF) rolls in to close out the year.

WFF dropped a press release yesterday to announce its 2019 festival line-up and juries. Now in its 19th edition, this year’s festival runs from December 4th to the 8th in Whistler, B.C., of course. WFF 2019’s slate offers 86 films (comprising of 43 features and 43 shorts from 15 countries), that are, “Dedicated to showcasing meaningful stories that spark conversation.”

WFF 2019 also announced that their line-up includes “11 first-time feature films, 13 feature films directed by women, and 67% of the program premiering Canadian features – more than any other Canadian film festival this year.”

Whistler Film Festival 2019 Press Release:


WFF is set to open this year with the Canadian Premiere of LOST TRANSMISSIONS, directed by Katharine O’Brien starring Simon Pegg and Juno Temple. Pegg (Theo) and Juno (Hannah) shine as LA music scene devotees, each battling their own mental health issues, who decide to abandon their respective medications in their quest for unfettered musical greatness. Simon Pegg, known for STAR TREK, STARS WARS, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, simply stuns with his delicate and empathetic performance as a gifted music producer compelled to listen to the voices dancing in his head. First-time director Katharine O’Brien has created a realistic film about mental illness that will ring true to anyone who has dealt closely with these issues, as well as prove unforgettable to those less familiar with mental health struggles. Both Simon Pegg and Katharine O’Brien are expected to be in attendance for opening night.


Highlights include the Canadian film festival premiere of THE IRISHMAN directed by Martin Scorsese, Canada’s entry in this year’s foreign-language Oscars category ANTIGONE directed by Sophie Deraspe, and Emile Goudreault’s COMPULSIVE LIAR (MENTEUR), the highest grossing Canadian film of the year with over $6M in domestic box office. In addition, the festival will also screen HOPE GAP directed by William Nicholson with Annette Bening and Bill Nighy, THE AERONAUTS directed by Tom Harper starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, as well as ORDINARY LOVE co-directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville and THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS directed by Lone Scherfig starring Zoe Kazan, Jay Baruchel, Caleb Landry Jones and Bill Nighy.

WFF will also feature the World Premiere of CABARETE, a rare film about an aspiring competitive kite-surfer shot on the scenic beaches of the Dominican Republic, and the North American premiere of LIBERTÉ: A CALL TO SPY, an exciting true story about female spies during WWII. The film is an American movie shot partly in Budapest and produced and written by Sarah Megan Thomas and directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher. Canadian Premieres include LOCUSTS, a gripping film noir shot in the Australian outback. WFF will also screen three American Indies, two of which will be gracing Canadian screens for the first time. These films include the Canadian premieres of THE ARTIST’S WIFE, directed by Tom Dolby starring Bruce Dern and Lena Olin, RANGE RUNNERS directed by newcomer Philip S. Plowden, and the Western Canadian Premiere of VIVARIUM, directed by Lorcan Finnegan starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots.

Closing the festival is a double-bill of Western Canadian premieres GROSSO’S LOVELETTERS TO CANADA and THE TONY ALVA STORY co-directed by Coan Buddy Nichols & Rick Charnoski. From season 10 of Jeff Grosso’s Love Letters to Skateboarding series, GROSSO’S LOVELETTERS TO CANADA showcases some of Canada’s most iconic skate spots and catches up with local luminaries, from Joe Buffalo in Ottawa to Rob Boyce in Vancouver. The episode will premiere right before THE TONY ALVA STORY, which chronicles skate legend Tony Alva’s humble beginnings on the streets of Santa Monica through his journey to become the godfather of modern-day skateboarding. The film features interviews with Stacey Peralta, Gus Van Sant, Josh Brolin, Steve Olson and Jeff Grosso as well as Alva himself who, at 60 years old, is still shredding everyday.

The Whistler Film Festival has evolved into a premium showcase for exciting new motion pictures not previously shown at other film festivals, with more and more filmmakers from Canada and abroad entrusting us with their new creations. From Canadian gems to American Indies, our 19th edition delivers compelling and entertaining stories from around the world, welcoming both established names and emerging filmmakers. This year’s lineup is full of familiar faces, fresh discoveries, and inspiring insights into critical issues that reflect today’s culture, and we can’t wait to share them with our audience,” states Paul Gratton, WFF Director of Programming.


Programming strands include American Indies, Canadian Vanguard, Discoveries, Doc Bloc, From Overseas, From The Vault, Mountain Culture, New Voices, ShortWork, Special Presentations, Spotlight and World Premieres. Twenty four of WFF’s forty three features are Canadian, English Canadian or World Premiere presentations.

Cinematic excellence remains at the heart of the Whistler Film Festival. To recognize the vitality of this art form, films are carefully programmed into seven juried sections. This year, WFF will present 15 film awards, with over $146,500 in cash and prizing ($31,500 cash and $115,000 in prizes) including:

  • The Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature that includes a $15,000 cash prize presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia and $15,000 Post Production Prize sponsored by Encore Vancouver, along with awards for Best Director also presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia, Best Performance, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography presented by the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 669;
  • World Documentary Award;
  • Mountain Culture Award presented by Whistler Blackcomb;
  • International ShortWork Award;
  • Canadian ShortWork Award ($1,000 cash award);
  • BC Student ShortWork Award ($500 cash award);
  • MPPIA Short Film Award ($15,000 cash award plus up to $100,000 in production services) presented by MPPIA and Creative BC;
  • The Alliance of Women Female Journalists (AWFJ) EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature and Best Female-Directed Short Film;
  • New BC Directors Award presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia
  • Audience Award (to be announced on December 9).

To honour the wealth of Canadian filmmaking talent, the 16th annual Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature returns with the country’s second-largest festival prize. This prestigious award is named in honour of Canadian filmmaker Philip Borsos, best known for his inspiring work on the Genie Award-winning films THE GREY FOX (1982) and BETHUNE: THE MAKING OF A HERO (1990). For the past four years, the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature has been open to all Canadian dramatic features making their Western Canadian Premiere at the festival. WFF is proud to host the World Premiere of the newly restored classic THE GREY FOX as our From the Vault selection, in the presence of producer Peter O’Brian and members of the Borsos family.

This year, 20 Canadian films will contend for the coveted Borsos award. Titles up for consideration include the World Premieres of CANADIAN STRAIN directed by Geordie Sabbagh, THE CUBAN directed by Sergio Navaretta, FALL BACK DOWN directed by 2018 Women on Top participant Sara Beth Edwards, THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY directed by Craig Pryce, PROMISE LAND directed by Kirk Caouette, QUEEN OF THE MORNING CALM directed by 2016 Women on Top award recipient Gloria Ui Young Kim, SPINSTER directed by Andrea Dorfman and starring Chelsea Peretti in her feature film debut, (with Peretti expected to attend), THINGS I DO FOR MONEY directed by Warren P. Sonoda, and THUNDERBIRD directed by Nicholas Treeshin.


Canadian premieres in the Borsos Competition include Gaurav Seth’s ENTANGLED, Tony Dean Smith’s VOLITION and WE HAD IT COMING directed by Paul Barbeau. English Canadian premieres include Marquise Lepage’s APAPACHO: A CARESS FOR THE SOUL and Onur Karaman’s GUILT (LE COUPABLE).

Western Canadian premieres in the competition include ANTIGONE directed by Sophie Deraspe, BLACK CONFLUX directed by Nicole Dorsey, Melanie Oates’ BODY AND BONES, Bruce McDonald’s DREAMLAND, FROM THE VINE directed by Sean Cisterna and starring Joseph Pantoliano (with Pantoliano expected to attend), and HAMMER directed by Christian Sparkes. The screening of ANTIGONE marks the second year in a row WFF has hosted Canada’s foreign-language submission to the Oscars.

Other Canadian films of note in this year’s lineup include JAMES VS HIS FUTURE SELF directed by Jeremy LaLonde and THE REST OF US, a stunning first feature directed by Ainsling Chin-Yee with Heather Graham and Jodi Balfour.

In addition to the Western Canadian premiere of the double-bill GROSSO’S LOVE LETTERS TO SKATEBOARDING: CANADA and THE TONY ALVA STORY which will close the festival, other Mountain Culture entries include the double-bill of SKI LEGENDS from Whistler local Lois Neu and ACCIDENTAL CLIMBER directed by Steven Oritt, big budget Chinese mountain epic THE CLIMBERS directed by Daniel Lee, and the Canadian Premiere of the Swiss documentary LOOKING FOR SUNSHINE about Olympic skier Lara Gut directed by Nicolo Castelli.


This year’s Doc Bloc competition features a refreshingly diverse lineup with two BC-based productions – ALONE ACROSS THE ARCTIC directed by Francis Luta and CLOSING THE GAP: HOCKEY IN NORTH KOREA directed by Nigel Edwards – both World Premieres. In addition, we are proud to present NAIL IN THE COFFIN: EL VAMPIRO CANADIENSE directed by Michael Paszt, PANDORA’S BOX: LIFTING THE LID ON MENSTRUATION (Canada) directed by Rebecca Snow and ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND (Canada) directed by Daniel Roher, the latter having opened this year’s Toronto Film Festival.

WFF’s Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature jury is made up of a diverse group of Canadian storytellers, two of whom have had films at our festival. The jury includes one of Canada’s most successful veteran producers Peter O’Brian, responsible for such films as THE GREY FOX, ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS, and JOHN AND THE MISSUS; award-winning director, screenwriter and producer Robert Budreau, whose film STOCKHOLM won the Borsos Award for Best Screenplay in 2018, and whose feature film BORN TO BE BLUE screened at WFF in 2016; and internationally acclaimed, award-winning Métis Cree Canadian filmmaker, activist and storyteller Loretta Todd, who is the director, co-writer and producer of upcoming feature film MONKEY BEACH, based on the iconic novel by Eden Robinson.

The World Documentary jury includes Vancouver-based documentarian and teacher Julia Ivanova who was the subject of the Hot Docs Festival’s Focus On retrospective in 2019; former NFB producer Tracey Friesen, also the author and founder of Story Money Impact, which produces Good Pitch Vancouver; and former Chief Creative Officer and Partner at Force Four Entertainment, John Ritchie, who has overseen the creation of more than 500 hours of film and television in all genres, including the multiple award-winning feature 65_REDROSES and Peabody Award-winning CBC dramatic mini-series Human Cargo.

This year’s Mountain Culture jury includes Whistler-born Peter Harvey, an award-winning independent producer committed to quality Canadian storytelling. His first feature film PICTURE DAY starring Tatiana Maslany won the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature Film in 2012, along with Best Performance for Maslany. He returns this year as the producer of Melanie Oates’ BODY AND BONES. Joining him is Squamish-based filmmaker, environmentalist and snowboarder Tamo Campos, founder of the non-profit Beyond Boarding and co-director of WFF18 title THE RADICALS, and Whisler local Erin Hogue, who has been awarded an X-Games Gold Medal in the competition’s 2017 Zoom Photography contest and selected as an Oprah Magazine Insider as well as a Sony Alpha Female. Erin is a photographer, speaker, writer and a creative director with an impressive client list including Oakley, ESPN, Transworld Snowboarding, Red Bull, Roxy and more.


The ShortWork Jury includes writer, director and producer Gloria Ui Young Kim who, in addition to being the winner of the WIDC Feature Film Award at the 2016 WFF, will world premiere her debut feature QUEEN OF THE MORNING CALM at this year’s festival; writer, director, producer SB Edwards (known for writing on the Netflix series TRAVELERS) whose debut feature FALL BACK DOWN is also having its world premiere at the festival this year; and director Gaurav Seth (known for PASSAGE TO OTTAWA which won a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival) whose feature ENTANGLED is having its Canadian premiere at this year’s festivalwff-logoThe Whistler Film Festival 2019 runs from December 04th to 08th. For additional information click here.


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