Whistler Film Festival Reveals 2020 Film Lineup and Juries

Earlier today, That Shelf shared Whistler Film Festival’s (WFF) Content Summit Lineup and First Wave of Industry Guests announcement. And now they’ve dropped their second wave of big news: their film slate and juries. This year’s event features 89 films premiering over 31 days of virtual screenings (and four days in theatre). The festival will open with the world premieres of Wendy Morgan’s Sugar Daddy and Carl Bessai’s In Her City (in theatre).

You can find out all the details in the press release below.


Whistler Film Festival Rolls Out 2020 Film Lineup and Juries for 20th Anniversary Edition

The Whistler Film Festival (WFF) has announced the full film lineup for its 20th anniversary edition with a hybrid of online and in-theatre offerings. Festival-goers can look forward to 89 fresh films, including 32 features and 57 shorts curated in ten programs, selected from over 1,350 submissions. 30 features and up to 51 shorts will be available to national audiences online from December 1 to 31. In-theatre screenings will showcase 10 features, including two premieres not available online, with eight features and up to 10 shorts premiering from December 3 to 6 in Whistler, and five features premiering from December 4 to 6 in Vancouver. To ensure a safe viewing experience, provincial health and safety protocols are in place at both theatres, and capacities are limited to 50 seats per show.


Film highlights include previously unseen projects with over two-thirds of the feature offerings representing World, North American and Canadian premieres. Films in competition will compete for 16 film awards and $38,500 in cash and prizes from juries composed of leading cinematic talent. ‘Canada’s coolest film fest’ continues to support emerging, diverse and domestic talent with the inclusion of 18 first-time feature films, 13 feature films directed by women, and 71% of the program premiering Canadian content – more than any other Canadian film festival this year. 17 of WFF’s 32 feature films are either World or Canadian premieres. Programming strands this year include Canadian Vanguard, Doc Bloc, Films From Away, Mountain Culture, New Voices, Special Presentations and ShortWork. In addition, to support filmmakers challenged by these unprecedented times, WFF has pledged to share net online proceeds on a 50/50 basis directly with the filmmakers or Canadian rights holders.

”With a particular emphasis on Canadian content creators and distinct and emerging new voices, the Whistler Film Festival continues to fill a valuable niche within the Canadian film festival ecosystem. This year, we’re excited to bring the magic of WFF to a national audience through our online offerings and in-theatre for our regional fans,” says Paul Gratton, WFF’s Director of Programming. “WFF has evolved into a premium showcase for exciting new motion pictures not previously shown at other film festivals. With our strongest lineup ever of Canadian gems to topical American Indies, our 20th edition selections simply crackle with the energy and creativity that result when brand new voices are mixed in with more established filmmakers.”

In the spirit of our hybrid film festival this year, WFF is proud to announce two exciting opening films, one to open the online series on December 1, and one to open in-theatre screenings on December 3 in Whistler.

WFF’s online festival will debut with the World Premiere of SUGAR DADDY, written by and starring Kelly McCormack and directed by Wendy Morgan. SUGAR DADDY is an eye-opening look at an aspiring musician who agrees to provide dinner companionship to older men for money. Colm Feore co-stars in this tour-de-force showcase for McCormack.


Our in-theatre offerings will kick off with an extraordinary World Premiere of IN HER CITY, glowingly directed by BC filmmaker Carl Bessai, a long time WFF alumnus and winner of its 2013 Maverick Award. IN HER CITY stars seventeen young actors with diverse backgrounds in a series of engaging short vignettes that will have you itching to see full-length versions of many of the short story ideas introduced in such compelling fashion in this omnibus feature. Set in three cities – Toronto, New York and Los Angeles – IN HER CITY brilliantly captures the pulse of young urban women coping with various challenges in today’s modern world.

Cinematic excellence remains at the heart of the Whistler Film Festival with 16 film awards in seven juried competitions to be presented that include:

  • Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature with a $15,000 cash prize presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia and $20,000 Post Production Prize sponsored by Company 3 Method Ltd., along with awards for Best Director also presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia, Best Performance, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography;
  • 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) presented by Capilano University;
  • Sea to Sky Shorts Showcase ($2,000 cash award) presented by The Hamber Foundation, ecologyst, Nesters Market Whistler;
  • Alliance of Women Female Journalists (AWFJ) EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature and Best Female-Directed Short Film;
  • BC Directors Award presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia; and
  • Audience Awards (to be announced on December 20).

To honour the wealth of Canadian filmmaking talent, the 17th 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.

This year, 15 Canadian films will contend for the five coveted Borsos Competition awards. Titles up for consideration include the World Premieres of AN INTROVERT’S GUIDE TO HIGH SCHOOL directed by Sophie Harvey, a comedic look at how high school pressures affect less outgoing students; IN HER CITY directed by Carl Bessai; INDIAN ROAD TRIP directed by A.W. Hopkins, a humorous First Nations road trip with scams, hidden loot and all kinds of funny hijinks;  MERCY directed by Sam Flamont, about life in a medium-security prison after the shooting of a wounded deer; SUGAR DADDY directed by Wendy Morgan starring and written by Kelly McCormack; and ALL-IN MADONNA directed by Arnold Lim about a young woman learning that her Dad may be a murderer.


National Festival VOD Premieres in the Borsos Competition include Ruth Lawrence’s LITTLE ORPHANS, about three sisters reuniting in Newfoundland for a wedding; Joshua Demers’ QUEBÉXIT, a brilliant political satire about a confrontation between the Canadian Army and a newly formed Quebec army following a surprise declaration of Quebec sovereignty; and THE CORRUPTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE directed by WFF alumnus Jeremy Torrie, a haunting story of a young Metis girl who develops stigmata and the religious fanatics who try to make her their own.

English Canadian premieres in the Borsos Competition include WFF18 alumnus Sophie Dupuis with UNDERGROUND (SOUTERRAIN), an exciting mining disaster movie; Eric Tessier’s YOU WILL REMEMBER ME (TU TE SOUVIENDRAS DE MOI), featuring a career-best performance by beloved Quebec actor Remy Girard as a former professor dealing with Alzheimer’s; Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s GODDESS OF THE FIREFLIES (LA DÉESSE DES MOUCHES À FEU); a disturbing coming-of-age story that will have you worrying about your teenage daughter; Étienne Galloy and Christophe Levac’s THE MARINA (LA MARINA), about wakeboarding and romance during a summer job at a marina; the Canadian premiere of Virginia Abramovich’s BETWEEN WAVES (Canada), an alternate universe romance shot in the Azores; and the Western Canadian premiere of Susan Rodgers’ STILL THE WATER, about a hard-scrabble family visit to PEI, a world of lobster fishing and hockey.

This year’s online Canadian selections feature films from just about every corner of the country, with films from PEI and Newfoundland, one set in New Brunswick, five films from Quebec, two from Ontario, films from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and six films from British Columbia.

WFF’s Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature jury is made up of a diverse group of Canadian storytellers, two of whom have had previous films screen at WFF. The jury includes Canadian producer, director and screenwriter, Larysa Kondracki, whose debut feature film, THE WHISTLEBLOWER, won WFF’s Borsos Award for Best Feature and the Audience Award in 2011, and received nominations for six Genies at the 32nd Genie Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Since then, she has written feature projects for Focus Features, HBO Films, Participant Media, and Showtime Entertainment.


The jury also includes distinguished actor, director and executive producer Lorne Cardinal, known for his role in the International Emmy-nominated comedy Corner Gas; award-winning actor Sheila McCarthy, who is the recipient of two Gemini TV Award and two Genie Awards for Best Actress in for the feature film LOTUS EATERS and, most notably, I’VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING, which also won her the Charles Chaplin Award in Vevey, Switzerland and the People’s Choice award at the Cannes Film Festival; and Strada Films founder Sandra Cunningham, known for producing work by first-class directors such as Atom Egoyan, Lone Scherfig, Robert Le Page, Jeremy Podeswa and Mary Harron, who is also the Supervising Producer on Thunderbird Entertainment/CBC’s award-winning series Kim’s Convenience. Her oscar-nominated film THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS played WFF19 after opening the 69th Berlin International Film Festival.

An especially exciting line-up of five documentaries will be shown online this year. Titles include two World Premieres, THE DECLINE, a film about East Vancouver’s growing fentanyl problem directed by Sean Patrick Shaul and Kayvon Saremi; and PAPERMAN (LAFORTUNE SUR PAPIER), an affectionate look at Quebec’s own version of Mr. Rogers, Claude Lafortune, directed by journalist Tanya Lapointe. Canadian Premieres include Julien Temple’s definitive biodoc of Shane MacGowan and The Pogues entitled CROCK OF GOLD and the amazingly breathtaking nature documentary OVERLAND by Elizabeth Haviland James and Revere La Noue about people who train birds of prey, shot on four continents. Finally, dog lovers will not want to miss STRAY, directed by Elizabeth Lo in Istanbul, winner of the Hot Docs International Film Award this year, but shown on a national festival VOD basis for the first time at WFF.

The World Documentary jury includes Selwyn Jacob, a BC Producer who joined the National Film Board’s BC & Yukon Studio in 1997 and went on to produce over 50 NFB films, and returned to the private sector as an independent Producer/Director in 2019; Fiona Rayher co-founder and CEO of Hoovie Movie and filmmaker known for FRACTURED LAND; and producer, director, writer and WFF alumnus Mackenzie Donaldson. Mackenzie is well known for her work producing the critically acclaimed; Emmy, Peabody and CSA award-winning; and Golden Globe-nominated show Orphan Black and most recently Snowpiercer. Her first feature documentary, CITIZEN BIO, directed by WFF Alumnus Trish Dolman, was released worldwide by Showtime in October.

The Films From Away strand includes some of the most topical films this year, torn from today’s headlines, all being shown in Canada for the first time. AMERICAN THIEF is an exciting thriller about cyber hacking of the 2016 Presidential election that deals with Black Lives Matter issues and police brutality, directed by Miguel Silveira. A SHOT THROUGH THE WALL, directed by Aimee Long, deals with a Chinese American cop who accidentally shoots a black youth leading to protests about systemic racism within the police force. SMALL TIME by Niav Conty is a beautifully shot coming of age story of lost innocence set in the devastated narco-rural areas of America,


SMALL TOWN WISCONSIN, directed by Niels Mueller, tells of how alcoholism affects a loving father-son relationship. The British film HOW TO STOP A RECURRING DREAM by Edward Morris features a breakout performance by a British actress of colour Ruby Baker. Add to this lineup the World Premiere of the haunting Canada/Colombia/SanSalvador co-production THE WHISPER OF SILENCE, which deals with coffee bean growing and toxic masculinity, directed by Alfonso Quijada, and you have a stellar line-up of debate-worthy films shot outside of Canada.

Two exceptional non-Canadian films will be presented in theatre only this year. NINE DAYS directed by Edson Oda, which took the Sundance Festival by storm, tells the story of unborn souls being interviewed for a chance to have a life on earth. THE LAST VERMEER, directed by Dan Friedkin, tells the true post-WWII story of a Dutch art dealer accused of selling a priceless Vermeer painting to the nazis, and the exciting court case that ensued, with Guy Pearce and Claes Bang.

WFF’s Special Presentations feature some of the strongest titles in this year’s festival. The Canadian/Irish co-production of DEATH OF A LADIES MAN features Gabriel Byrne losing his mind to the music of Leonard Cohen, directed by Matt Bissonette. MARLENE tells the true-life story of Stephen Truscott’s wife who spent her life seeking to legally exonerate her husband for a rape/murder he did not commit, directed with passion by Wendy Hill-Tout. PUPPY LOVE, featuring Hopper Penn, Paz de la Huerta and Rosanna Arquette, directed by Michael Maxxis tells the story of an unusual romance between an autistic young virgin and the drug-using street hooker he falls in love with. EAT WHEATIES, directed by Scott Abramovich features Arrested Development’s Tony Hale as a socially awkward man who obsesses over inviting a celebrity to his college reunion with unexpectedly comic results.

This year’s Mountain Culture jury includes Brandon Pullan, editor of Gripped: The Climbing Magazine; Heather Mosher, an adventure filmmaker based in Squamish, BC whose work focuses on the intersection of outdoor and adventure stories with broader social and environmental themes and has produced and sold films for national and international broadcast and distribution, including CBC, TELUS, and Red Bull TV; and actor Nathaniel Arcand, a Plains Cree (Nehiyaw), from the Alexander First Nation Reserve, known for his role as William MacNeil in the hit CBC TV series North of 60.

WFF’s ShortWork section includes 57 short films from Canada and around the world curated into ten programs, seven programs of which will be exclusively online, and three of which will also be presented in-theatre. Two Mountain Culture programs and up to 14 shorts created in competition for the Sea to Sky Shorts Showcase will be presented in-theatre, with titles to be announced shortly. A selection of Mountain Culture ShortWork as well as the Sea to Sky Shorts Showcase films will also be available online.

The ShortWork Jury of three WFF alumnus includes writer/director Meryam Joobeur, whose short film BROTHERHOOD won the WFF Canadian ShortWork Award in 2018 and was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at the 92nd Academy Awards; writer/director Johnny Ma, whose recent feature TO LIVE TO SING, had its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival Directors Fortnight competition, and who won WFF’s Best International ShortWork Award for A GRAND CANAL in 2013; and writer/director/actor Mary Galloway, who is the process of making her Telefilm funded web series QUERENCIA, which won the imagineNATIVE Pitch Competition gaining her a broadcast deal with APTN/The Bell Fund, and who also participated in WFF’s Indigenous FIlmmaker Fellowship in 2015 with her short film UNINTENTIONAL MOTHER, which premiered at WFF in 2017.

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ EDA Awards will be presented for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature and for Best Female-Directed Short Film. Eligible female-directed films are being screened as part of the festival’s regular program, and are nominated for EDA Awards consideration by the Whistler Film Festival’s programmers. The Narrative Feature jury includes: Jennifer Merin (Chair) AWFJ President and AWFJ.org Editor-in-Chief, Liz Braun a film critic for the Sun Media newspaper chain in Canada, and Lois Alter Mark, an award-winning writer who reviews films on Midlife at the Oasis and former contributing writer for Entertainment Weekly for more than a decade, she also writes for USA Today and Forbes. The Female-directed Short Award jury includes: Marina Antunes (Chair) Editor-In-Chief of Quiet Earth, Jazz Tangcay, Artisans Editor at Variety, and Susan Wloszczyna Senior Editor at Gold Derby who spent over 30 years at USA Today.

The BC Directors Award presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia recognizes the achievements of a BC Director with a feature film at the festival, and are nominated for DGC-BC’s consideration by the Whistler Film Festival’s programmers.

All narrative and documentary feature-length films in the Whistler Film Festival are eligible to receive the Audience Awards, which is a non-cash prize. The Festival-going public cast their votes to choose the most popular film in this year’s festival both for features premiering online and in-theatre.

For more information about the Whistler Film Festivals 20th edition, click here.

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