Whistler Film Fest tackles media

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      The very nature of media is up for discussion in key items at this year’s Whistler Film Festival. Most directly tackling the subject at the annual event, happening December 3 to 6 in the mountain town, is RiP: A Remix Manifesto, which starts with audio mash-ups to discuss the whole notion of copyrighted information.

      Young writer-director Brett Gaylor helped found the Gulf Islands Film and Television School before moving to Montreal to pursue his own filmmaking career. These days, he appears driven to convey to moviegoers how the nuts and bolts of free expression are being swiped from creative people in the public arena.

      “The whole concept of copyright has changed so much over the years,” Gaylor says on the line from his Quebec home. “But only in quite recent years has the law come down so heavily on the side of protecting property at the expense of so many new potential developments.”

      Indeed, the film makes the case for beating back big media corporations before they get a final stranglehold on our entire nervous systems.

      While in Whistler, Gaylor will participate in a panel discussion dealing with the relationship between music and movies. New media will be addressed by the Whistler Filmmaker Forum, from December 3 to 6.

      Elsewhere, amidst industry events and competition for the annual Phillip Borsos Award for Best New Canadian Feature Film, there’s a tribute to Donald Sutherland. Some anticipated titles, within more than 100 features and shorts debuting here, include Canadian Anna Chi’s Dim Sum Funeral, Israel’s animated Waltz With Bashir, and the U.S.-made Last Chance Harvey, starring Dustin Hoffman.

      On the documentary front, Chris Taylor’s Food Fight celebrates the ascent of organic farming and local cooking, while the National Film Board’s Carts of Darkness looks at North Vancouver homeless, romanticizing them in the process. Still, the subject brought Murray Siple back to filmmaking 10 years after a cruel car accident ended his sports-movie career.

      Vancouver’s innovative Ileana Pietrobruno goes similarly micro in her concerns with Girlfriend Experience. The smoothly designed feature purports to be a documentary study of sex workers and their complicated dynamic with repeat clients. It focuses on one sex-addicted john who gets hooked on his favourite hooker. At some point you realize that all the roles—including those of men giving voice-altered testimony—are portrayed by actors.

      “It’s not conventionally narrative,” the veteran writer-director says. “And I didn’t want to make a film that has a moral to it. People don’t realize that there are more johns than sex workers. Sex is like everything else: where there’s need, there’s commodification. And I wanted to talk about the participants.”

      To that end, Pietrobruno interviewed many men through ads she placed on-line and in papers. Then she constructed a script filled with reenactments and other faux-doc effects—along with considerable nudity and extreme situations.

      Pietrobruno says she got major assists from top cinematographer John Houtman and actor David Lewis, who plays the guy looking for the simulated relationship of the title.

      “In the end,” she insists, “whatever your concept might be, everything still rests on the actor.”

      And, of course, on who own the rights to his image.