WFF 2015: River and Last Harvest lead award winners

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      It was the 15th anniversary for the Whistler Film Festival—and it was also River's year. 

      The Laos-set Canadian thriller River was the big winner at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival awards ceremony, held at the Whistler Conference Centre on Sunday (December 6).

      The film, about an American volunteer doctor working in a Laotian village who goes on the run after intervening in the sexual assault of a woman but becomes accused of murder, garnered three awards: best screenplay (Jamie Dagg), best director (Jamie Dagg), and best Canadian feature (which includes a $15,000 cash prize and a $15,000 post-production prize). Lead star Rossif Sutherland also received honourable mention for best actor.

      The jury stated that they chose River for “its powerful presentation of one man’s moral dilemma in a filmmaking style that is ambitious and authentic despite the enormous challenge of its complex international location.”

      Meanwhile, filmmaker Jane Hui Wang collected two awards: the Alliance of Women Film Journalists EDA (Excellent Dynamic Activism) award for best female-directed documentary for her film Last Harvest, as well as the best world documentary award. The film captures the challenges an elderly farming couple faces when they are forced to relocate due to a major water-diversion project in China.

      The world documentary award jury stated that they chose the film for Wang's “determination, patience, access, and craft in sharing a rural Chinese family’s emotional relocation story as they confront political oppression, bureaucracy, and corruption in this all too familiar and universal story.”

      In other AWFJ EDA awards, the American drama A Light Beneath Their Feet, about the relationship between a girl wanting to go to college and her bipolar mother, won the Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature Award, and the French short film “Sunday Lunch” by Celine Devaux received the Best Female-Directed Short Award. 

      Veteran actor Paul Savoie collected the best actor award for The Diary of an Old Man (Le journal d’un vieil homme). In addition to the previously mentioned Sutherland, Laura Abramsen’s work in Basic Human Needs and The Sabbatical was also recognized with an honourable mention.

      He Hated Pigeons’ Dylan Macleod won the award for best cinematography. Writer-director Ingrid Veninger, who collected the award on behalf of Macleod, said the film was dedicated to his mother "who passed away on the final day of shooting".

      Among the short film winners, Canadian filmmaker Anthony Bonello's “Eclipse”, about photographer Reuben Krabbe’s attempt to capture someone skiing under a solar eclipse, was named the best mountain culture film for best representing mountain culture through sport and play.

      Johnathan Sousa’s “Withheld”, about an 11-year-old girl’s relationship with her father after her mother dies, scooped up the $1,000 Canadian ShortWork Award.

      Jem Gerrard’s “The Wolf Who Came to Dinner” received the Canadian ShortWork Award for Best Screenplay.

      Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s Lawrence Lam took home the $500 Student ShortWork Award for  “The Blue Jet”, about the true story of a famous radio DJ who broadcast banned rock ’n’ roll in 1970s Taiwan.

      The MPPIA Short Film Award, which includes a $15,000 cash award plus up to $100,000 in services to create a short film, went to Maja Aro's pitch for “Hoods”, which will screen at next year’s film festival upon completion.

      German filmmaker Till Nowak’s modern fairytale “Dissonance” received the International ShortWork Award. 

      The festival wraps up tonight (December 6) with the closing gala screening of Jason Goode’s B.C.–set feature Numb.

      Stay tuned for more coverage from the festival from the Georgia Straight.

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