The 20th edition of the Whistler Film Festival called it a wrap for its program on Sunday with an awards ceremony—and the list of winners hail from across Canada and abroad.
Even though the festival has completed, all of the films and more from this year's WFF are still available to watch online until the end of the month. (Also, to help support filmmakers and Canadian rights holders during this challenging time, the festival is giving them 50 percent of net proceeds from film tickets.)
On December 20, the WFF presented 14 awards in seven juried film competitions and a total of $38,500 in cash and production prizes.
Newfoundland filmmaker Ruth Lawrence won the Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature for her all-female sibling drama Little Orphans, which includes a $15,000 cash prize from the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia, and a $20,000 post production prize from Company 3.
The jury stated that this film, shot in St. John’s, Newfoundland, delivered “a familiar story, yet told in the most original way with an ensemble cast of brilliant actors who all delivered standout performances”.
Meanwhile, a female filmmaker from a neighbouring province garnered an award for exploring a male-oriented narrative.
The Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia, presented Québécoise filmmaker Sophie Dupuis with the Best Director Award for Underground (Souterrain), which the jury described as “a kinetic examination that dissected the experience of miners on a technical, philosophical and emotional level. Sophie Dupuis uncovered a complex masculinity and reinvented the way that masculinity is portrayed in cinema.”
Acclaimed Québécois actor Rémy Girard collected the Best Performance in a Borsos Competition Film Award for his oustanding portrayal of an overbeating professor succumbing to dementia in Éric Tessier’s You Will Remember Me (Tu te souviendras de moi). Girard was also honoured with the Career Achievement Award.
Of Girard’s performance, the jury stated that this is “an important film that was enhanced by his mastery and it would be hard to imagine this performance in any lesser hands”.
Honourable mentions went to Sugar Daddy writer and costar Kelly McCormack in Sugar Daddy and Rémi Goulet in The Marina.
In addition, Vancouver filmmaker Kelly McCormack was named the winner of The One to Watch Award.
Comedies also made their mark this year.
Screenwriters Gail Maurice, Xaveir Yuvens, and Joshua Demers received the Best Screenplay in a Borsos Film for their humorous Canadian feature Québexit, a look at dispute on the New Brunswick-Quebec border after Quebec achieves independence from Canada.
A.W Hopkins was given an honourable mention for the B.C.-filmed First Nations comedy Indian Road Trip.
But Hopkins also went on to win the new Just Watch Us: Best B.C. Director Award from the Directors Guild of Canada, British Columbia for Indian Road Trip, which the jury said stood out “not only as a well-crafted film, but a powerful (and often very funny) story that will undoubtedly resonate with audiences across B.C. and beyond”.
Best Cinematography in a Borsos Film went to cinematographer Fred Gervais-Dupuis (who was 19 years old when he shot the film) in The Marina, the directorial debut of Étienne Galloy and Christophe Levac. The jury stated that the film’s cinematography provided an atmospheric, poetic take on the banality of teenage life.
Mathieu Laverdière received an honourable mention for Underground (Sousterrain).
Julien Temple’s Crock of Gold, which delves into the life of Pogues singer-songwriter Shane MacGowan through reenactments and archival footage, won the World Documentary Award. Tanya Lapointe’s The Paper Man, about Quebec paper artist Claude Lafortune, received an honourable mention.
Of course, as this is film festival is in Whistler, mountain life cannot be ignored on screen.
Whistler Blackcomb presented the Best Mountain Culture Film Award to director Josephine Anderson for her short documentary about three female professional mountain bikers, "On Falling", which the jury said “gives a fresh take on an action sports film that provides a sensitive perspective on the physical hardships of being a world-class athlete. It opens the doors to a new genre of film that blends creative filmmaking with cutting-edge adventure: a poetic rumination on the concept of falling and all the ways that manifests itself, without sacrificing any of the action audiences might expect from a mountain biking film.”
In addition, Zoya and Izzy Lynch’s Motherload, about “an emotional journey of loss and parenting”, received honourable mention.
The $1,000 Canadian ShortWork Award went to the coming-of-age story “Shooting Star (Comme une comète)” directed by Ariane Louis-Seize, while Christian Trineer received honourable mention for “The Painter From Nowhere”.
Dekel Berenson won the International ShortWork Award for “Ashmina”, about a girl facing corrupt influences as she approaches adulthood.
Capilano University’s School of Motion Picture Arts presented the $500 B.C. Student ShortWork Award to Rowan Landaiche and Amber Nordstrand’s “Rollerbladies”, which the jury described as “a hilarious buddy-comedy sprinkled with throwback stylized shots, impressive blading, and a funky-fun ‘90s flare”.
Anna Dziczkaniece and Helen Burt won the WFF’s first annual Sea to Sky Shorts Showcase and $2,000 cash prize (a new filmmaking competition in which teams had 20 days to create their short films) with “Utopia”. Kyle Killeen took second place with “SEA2SKY P.I.” and Steve Andrews “Making Miki’s Magic” came in third place. Honourable Mention went to Amanda Palmer’s “Nature Entwined”.
The Alliance of Women Film Journalists gave this year's EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Feature to Niav Conty’s Small Time, which the jury called “a clear-eyed look at contemporary America from a child's point of view—terrible to witness, but beautiful to look at, as a girl of 10 is left in the care of various ineffectual adults, all of whom are otherwise occupied by poverty, addiction, and fragile mental health”.
Special mention went to Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Québécois coming-of-age film set in the 1990s, Goddess of the Fireflies, described by the jurors as “an insightful, often devastating look at what it's like to be a teenager”.
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists’s EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Short Film went to Ashley Eakin for “Single”, which jurors praised for how the film “tackles preconceptions about people with disabilities and challenges expectations”.
Women in the Director’s Chair presented the 2020 WIDC Feature Film Award (featuring an in-kind prize of up to $200,000 in services and rentals) and the CBC Films WIDC Talent Development Award (including a $10,000 cash prize from CBC Films) to Kim Albright for her feature film directorial debut With Love and a Major Organ.
The winner of the WFF Power Pitch on December 11, Jaskaran Singh for Jersey Boy, will receive a $36,000 prize package including a $25,000 post-production credit from Company 3, a $1,000 cash prize, and a $10,000 lighting and grip production credit from William F. White International Inc.
American-Canadian actor Colm Feore (Sugar Daddy) received the Canadian Icon Award for how his career and achievements have contributed to the Canadian film industry, Irish actor and filmmaker Gabriel Byrne (Death of a Ladies' Man) received the Maverick Award, and Hong Kong-American actor Tzi Ma (A Shot Through the Wall) received the Trailblazer Award.
The Union of B.C. Performers (UBCP/ACTRA) named WFF’s Stars to Watch as:
- Elyse Levesque and Ali Skovbye who star in The Corruption of Divine Providence;
- Paul Grenier and Miika Whiskeyjack in Indian Road Trip;
- Melanie Rose Wilson in All-In Madonna.
The votes are in! The winners of the 2020 Whistler Film Festival (WFF) were announced at the Awards Celebration on the final day of official programming at the 20th edition with 14 awards in seven juried film competitions and $38,500 in cash and production prizes awarded.