Viewing and visiting tips for the 22nd annual cinematic celebration
The Whistler Film Festival (WFF) returns November 30 to December 4, with no less than 86 films from 19 countries. Ranging from heartfelt dramas and gripping Oscar contenders to adrenaline-pumping adventure flicks and gritty hockey docs, the 22nd lineup is a testament to up-and-coming Canadian and international film talent.
Toss in glitzy parties and star sightings, plus a mountain village setting and easy access to outdoor pursuits, and the festival makes for quite the fetching package.
But what and how to watch? (Hint: there are two ways.) And where to play in between screenings?
Read on for the inside reel on what’s been dubbed “Canada’s coolest film festival.”
What to watchExile
This year’s formidable 41 features and 45 shorts can make selecting rather daunting. To help get your movie-choosing juices going, we’ve highlighted a few prime picks below.
Fostering Canadian talent has been at the heart of the WFF since its 2001 launch. While the event has since expanded, national content remains the big ticket here. Indeed, last year’s festival drew almost 20,000 attendees with 61 percent of films being homegrown. Not surprisingly, this year’s domestic roster promises to be equally as alluring.
Take a look at productions making their world premieres. There’s the shot-in-B.C. thriller Exile, starring Adam Beach (Power of the Dog) as a grief-stricken ex-con searching for redemption. And the Jason Priestley-directed Offside: The Harold Ballard Story, a revealing documentary about the controversial Toronto Maple Leafs owner. Starring Kenneth Welsh in his final appearance, Midnight at the Paradise casts a spotlight on long-term relationships against a local movie house backdrop. While on the lighter side, the Orillia, Ontario-shot Boy City takes a comedic look at boy bands and their fans.Broken AngelThe festival’s commitment to diversity, inclusivity and gender parity shines through with Canadian features Broken Angel, an Indigenous drama tracing a Cree mother and daughter’s escape from an abusive relationship; the Granville-Island-shot Colorblind, which exposes the many forms of racism that exist in our society today; and Out in the Ring, an historical documentary examining queer representation in the world of professional wrestling.Lissa's TripOn the experimental side is the Canadian premiere of Lissa’s Trip, a psychedelic romp from B.C. filmmaker Jeffery Lando that follows a former child star on her way to a big audition after she accidentally consumes a large amount of acid. In the visually original Soft-Spoken Weepy Cult Child, a sensitive 16-year-old finds herself forced to move in with her cult-member mother.What would a film festival set among peaks be without a few mountain culture movies and shorts? Tracing Influence catches up with six acclaimed skiers—from first Indigenous pro-skier Connor Ryan to Sea-to-Sky local Mark Abma—and the people who inspired them. On a more sombre note, stories and lessons from the backcountry are shared in the avalanche awareness documentary, Know Before You Go: To the Hills and Back.
In addition to the Canadian slate, other don’t-miss productions hail from both near and far. Daniel Craig returns as smooth detective Benoit Blanc in the much-anticipated Knives Out (U.S.) sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery; John Lennon and friends take to the stage in a little-known but lifechanging concert in the Canada-France coproduction, Rival69: The Concert that Rocked the World; and Lilliputians meet Broadway-style musical numbers in the family-friendly Ukraine animation, Gulliver Returns.
Still having trouble narrowing down your WFF choices? Try finetuning your picks with the festival website’s nine curated program strands, ranging from 'Canadian Vanguard' and 'Directed by Women' to 'Feel Good Films'. You can also filter by venue, interest and day.
How to watch
Tourism WhistlerThe in-person festival runs November 30 to December 2. But if your top picks are showing at similar times or you can’t make it to the live event, no worries. More than 75 percent of the lineup will be viewable online across Canada from December 5 to January 2. Just be sure to visit the help page beforehand so you’re up to speed on the technical requirements.
Want to see as many in-theatre films as possible? Enter the Whistler Film Pass ($240), which gives you access to all screenings. That includes opening night’s White Noise (directed by Noah Baumbach of 2019’s Marriage Story fame and starring Adam Driver) and closing night’s Human Extreme (veteran action-sports director Thierry Donard’s look at 10 extreme athletes and what drives them).
Want to simply sample the festival? Pick and choose with the Three Pack ($55), Six Pack ($99) or Ten Pack ($160), which include access to said number of in-theatre or online screenings (opening and closing nights excluded). Single tickets ($20) are also available via the festival’s film pages.
See all pass and pack options here; you’ll need to sign up and log in to purchase.
Where to playTourism Whistler
Just beyond the village theatres, Whistler’s early-winter offerings await. Choose from ziplining high above an old-growth rainforest, snowshoeing through a winter wonderland or skiing on two mountains lined with 200-plus runs. A bit further afield, explore year-round birding on the newly launched Sea to Sky Bird Trail.
Back in town, take a break from screening to ponder how skateboarding intersects with contemporary art at the Audain Art Museum’s new Out of Control exhibit. Or explore the complex health journey of Indigenous people at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre’s Ancient Medicine exhibit.
Get a jump on Christmas shopping at the village’s chic designer boutiques, one-off local shops and everything in between. Then embark on a hot-cold-and-relaxing thermal journey at Scandinave Spa, home to a Finnish sauna, Nordic showers and solariums.
For the perfect pre- or post-show dinner and drink, head to the new Wild Blue Restaurant + Bar to savour Pacific Northwest plates of salmon, sablefish and blue fin tuna, washed down with your choice from the extensive wine and creative cocktail menu. Or drop by one of the many other dining spots that dot the village.
Find more ways to spend your festival downtime with the new Go Whistler Tours app, packed with self-guided itineraries like Whistler Festive Lights, Craft Beer and Weird and Wonderful Trees.