Whistler film fest serves up a cultural feast

Over 80 films to be shown during four-day event

It's been more than a decade since the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) got its start, and in that time the festival has grown into the premiere film event for the Sea to Sky corridor.

Now featuring over 80 films, the 2011 iteration of the WFF seemingly has something for everyone - from documentaries to animation and everything in between.

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"We're looking to go after sort of a wide group," said Stacey Donen, WFF's artistic director. "We have all kinds of films that would be of interest to different kinds of people - films for activists involved with the environment, things that would be more driven to cinefiles, something that's a little more for the populace and films for those looking for something from around the world."

On top of bringing in a bunch of films premiering for the first time in B.C., Donen said he is also proud that the festival is able to present something for families to enjoy with its Whistler Presents Pixar in the Plaza screening.

"It's Pixar's 25th anniversary and we wanted to have a little anniversary party and have a free screening," said Donen.

The screening will be held at Whistler Olympic Plaza, and will feature 14 animated shorts by the studio known best for hit films Toy Story, Finding Nemo and WALL-E to name a few.

"It will be fun and we end the program with one of the films that was made by the new Pixar Vancouver office," explained Donen. "Animation is now a big business in Vancouver, so we wanted to put some spotlight on the animation world and Pixar specifically for families kids and everybody. The films are likeable and adored by all - it's just a fun, free Whistler event."

Other festival highlights include several documentaries, such as Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Politician.

"It's very timely right now considering what's going on in Cairo," said Donen. "It's a very from-the-ground look at the beginnings of the Arab Spring and it's by people living there and living the experience."

Another documentary that Donen is excited about bringing to Whistler is one that details a native community's fight against a corporation encroaching on their land.

"We also have another documentary called Kivalina vs. Exxon, which is about a native community in Alaska that is taking Exxon to court. It deals with environmental concerns and a lifestyle that is slowly eroding in terms of their culture," explained Donen.

But if documentaries aren't your preference, fear not - there are still plenty of dramatic, informative and culturally-rich films to be had. It's that variety Donen says is the beauty of film as a medium.

"We have films that are done in Australia, China or Mexico - they allow you to connect with those people and makes us feel that we are part of that life," said Donen. "This whole idea of connecting What arts and culture means to me - it allows me to feel things and connect to people from far-off places. It's all about that kind of emotional connection - whether it's with the screen or the people sitting besides you."

On top of connecting with the film and fellow filmgoers, Donen also noted that the festival environment also allows people to interact with the filmmakers themselves, as many of the actors and directors behind the films will be in attendance during some screenings.

"We've got a ton of filmmakers here and you can talk to them, ask them questions and connect directly with the filmmaker," explained Donen. "It's an exciting time for festivals of any kind, when you have artists mingling with audiences. And to be in such an intimate place like Whistler, I hope a lot of people from Whistler get out and experience it."

The Whistler Film Festival runs from today until Sunday (Dec. 1 to 4). To see the full schedule of films and events and to purchase tickets, head to www.whistlerfilmfestival.com.

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