This year's Whistler Film Festival will feature more new movies and possibly more future Academy Award nominees than ever before.
It will open with La La Land, an Oscar-buzzworthy romance starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.
Another film that's been the subject of Oscar talk, 20th Century Women, will premiere at the WFF. It stars Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, and Billy Crudup.
It's one of 23 premieres at the festival, which takes place in Whistler from November 30 to December 4.
Another premiere will close the festival: Shades of Winter Between, a documentary about female athleticism directed by Austrian filmmaker and skier Sandra Lahnsteiner.
Another much-anticipated premiere is John Madden's Miss Sloane, starring Jessica Chastain as a ruthless lobbyist taking on the U.S. gun industry.
Miss Sloane is not the only film themed around firearms. Brie Larson, who won an Oscar for her performance in Room, stars in Free Fire, yet another anticipated film being shown in Whistler. It's an offbeat Ben Wheatley-directed feature about an encounter between Irish Republican Army members and gun dealers.
Meanwhile, the runner-up for the People's Choice Award at TIFF, Lion, will also be screened at the festival. It stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, and Nicole Kidman. Patel plays a man raised in the West seeking to find his lost family in India.
Another film to keep an eye on is Tresspass Against Us, a crime drama starring Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson.
In a news release, WFF director of programming Paul Gratton said that the annual movie bash in Whistler has become the "premium western showcase for Oscar-bound movies".
"When you throw in the large number of exciting films from emerging Canadian talent, it is hard to imagine a more densely programmed five-day film festival anywhere," he added. "No self-respecting film fan can afford to miss it."
The festival plans to hand out 15 awards and $154,500 in cash and prizes.
Canadian films celebrated at WFF
It's remarkable how many Canadian films are being shown this year in Whistler. Nineteen films are competing for the annual Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature. Named after Vancouver director Philip Borsos, it comes with a $15,000 award sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada and a $15,000 post-production prize sponsored by ENCORE Vancouver.
Contenders for this year's Borsos award include David I. Strasser for Raw, Justin McConnell for Red Mile, Katherine Schlemmer for The Death (And Life) of Carl Naadlinger, Tyson Caron for Lovesick, Leon Marr for The Second Time Around, Adam Levins for Population Zero, David Ray for Grand Unified Theory, Chris Craddock for It's Not My Fault and I Don't Care Anyway, Ken Finkelman for An American Dream: The Education of William Bowman, Chris Scheuerman for Lost Solace, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski for The Void, John Barnard for Menorca, Martin Blue for Hunting Pignut, Amy Jo Johnson for The Space Between, and Kirsten Carthew for The Sun at Midnight.
Quebec entries for the Borsos are Chloé Leriche for Before the Streets, Olivier Asselin for The Cyclotron, Steve Kerr for The Squealing Game, and Jean-François Pouliot for The Three Little Pigs 2.
The jury will be chaired by Canadian director, writer and producer Deepa Mehta. It will also include Hong Kong-born actor Tzi Ma and writer, director, producer, and film professor Ingrid Veninger, who won last year's Borsos Award for Best Cinematography for He Hated Pigeons.
More than 65 percent of the films at this year's WFF are Canadian. In all, there will be 86 movies screened from 18 countries.
The WFF also includes a solid list of documentaries, including Lynne Spencer's Broken, which profiles Vancouver ballet dancer Simone Orlando, and Mostly Sunny, which is Dilip Mehta's film about Sarnia's Sunny Leone's transformation from porn star to successful Bollywood actor.
Other docs playing at Whistler are Michael McNamara's Celtic Soul, featuring a trip by actor Jay Baruchel to Ireland and Scotland, and Going Further, a reprise of writer Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters' magic-bus tour by his son Zane.