Sugar Daddy, In Her City to open Whistler film fest

Sugar Daddy
Going the hybrid route, director Wendy Morgan's Sugar Daddy will serve as WFF's virtual opening night presentation, while Carl Bessai's In Her City is the fest's in-theatre opener.

Whistler Film Festival (WFF) has announced its full programming lineup for its upcoming 20th anniversary edition – tapping two opening presentations as it goes the hybrid route.

Starting next month, the festival – which runs from Dec. 1 to 20 – will see films taking part in its online portion available nationally from Dec. 1 to 31 (a move that sees the festival quadruple in length) and host over 20 in-theatre screenings from Dec. 3 to 6 at the Maury Young Arts Centre in Whistler and the Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas in Vancouver, respectively, with provincial health and safety protocols in place.

On the online front, director Wendy Morgan’s Sugar Daddy (pictured) with writer and star Kelly McCormack will open the festival virtually on Dec. 1, while B.C.’s Carl Bessai’s In Her City with writer Lory Mpiana will screen as its in-theatre opening night presentation on Dec. 3rd.

Both making their world debuts at WFF 2020, Sugar Daddy, produced by Floyder Films’ McCormack, Clique Pictures’ Lauren Grant and Violator Films’ Lori Lozinski, tracks the story of an aspiring musician who agrees to be a companion for older men for money. Last year, it was announced that levelFILM had acquired the Canadian distribution rights to the film.

Meanwhile, Toronto, New York and L.A.-set In Her City, features 17 young actors in a series of short vignettes examining young urban women dealing with various challenges. Notably, director/producer Bessai was honoured with the festival’s Maverick Award in 2013.

WFF director of film programming Paul Gratton and managing director Angela Heck told Playback Daily that these in-theatre screenings would contain up to 50 seats per theatre. “I can assure you at those attendance levels, this is not an opportunity for us to make money. We’re really doing this in order to honour the B.C. filmmakers on the occasion of their world premiere, while telling them in very specific terms not to expect walking up the red carpet at Cannes given the circumstances that we’re living under,” said Gratton, adding that all of these films will also be shown online.

All told, WFF’s lineup consists of a total of 89 films – split between 32 feature films and 57 short films – which were selected from over 1,350 submissions.

Of note, 71% of this year’s films come from Canada, while 47% of WFF’s 2020 lineup is directed or co-directed by women or non-binary individuals. Additionally, 18 films come from first-time feature filmmakers and thirty features as well as 51 shorts will be presented online.

Notably, WFF has pledged to share 50% of net online proceeds with filmmakers or Canadian rights holders in an effort to support filmmakers.

The Canadian films set to receive the in-theatre treatment include: directors Sean Patrick Shaul and Kayvon Saremi’s The Decline (world premiere); Sophie Harvey’s An Introvert’s Guide to High School (world premiere); A.W. Hopkins’ Indian Road Trip (world premiere); Arnold Lim’s All-In Madonna (world premiere); and Alfonso Quijada’s Canada/Columbia/El Salvador copro The Whisper of Silence (world premiere). The Sea to Sky Shorts Showcase and two Mountain Culture Shorts programs will also screen theatrically.

An Introvert’s Guide to High School, Indian Road Trip and All-In Madonna are all set to take part in WFF’s New Voices section.

An Introvert’s Guide to High School is described as a comedic look at high school pressure impacts less outgoing students, while Indian Road Trip is a journey with hidden loot and hijinks. All-In Madonna follows a young woman learning that her father may be a murderer.

Meanwhile, drama The Whisper of Silence will debut in WFF’s Films From Away. Set in the coffee fields of Latin America, the film follows an 18-year-old picker, exploring the coffee bean as well as toxic masculinity.

A total of 15 films will compete in the 17th annual Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature Film.

The titles up for the honour include: Sugar Daddy; In Her City; An Introvert’s Guide to High School; Indian Road Trip; All-In Madonna; Sam Flamont’s Mercy (world premiere, New Voices); Ruth Lawrence’s Little Orphans (national festival VOD premiere, New Voices); Joshua Demers’ Québexit (national festival VOD premiere, New Voices); WFF alumnus Jeremy Torrie’s The Corruption of Divine Providence (national festival VOD premiere, Canadian Vanguard); Sophie Dupuis’ Underground (English Canadian premiere, Canadian Vanguard); Éric Tessier’s You Will Remember Me (“Tu te souviendras de moi,” English Canadian premiere, Canadian Vanguard); Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Goddess of the Fireflies (“La déesse des mouches à feu,” English Canadian premiere, Canadian Vanguard); co-writer and directors Étienne Galloy and Christophe Levac’s The Marina (“La Marina,” English Canadian premiere, New Voices); Virginia Abramovich’s Between Waves (Canadian premiere, New Voices); and finally, Susan Rodgers’ Still The Water (western Canadian premiere, New Voices), which was recently acquired by Toronto’s Indiecan Entertainment.

This year’s Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature jury includes: Larysa Kondracki, whose debut feature film The Whistleblower won the prize and audience award in 2011; Strada Films founder Sandra Cunningham; actor/producer/director Lorne Cardinal, who was recently honoured with imagineNATIVE’s 6th annual August Schellenberg Award of Excellence; and actor Sheila McCarthy (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing).

The Decline, meanwhile, will make its world premiere alongside fellow journalist Tanya Lapointe’s The Paperman (“Lafortune sur papier”) in the Doc Bloc. Saremi and Patrick Shaul’s The Decline examines East Vancouver’s fentanyl problem, while The Paperman offers a look at Canadian paper artist and TV personality Claude Lafortune.

In the Special Presentations section, director Matt Bissonnette’s Canada/Ireland copro Death of a Ladies Man (national festival VOD premiere) will screen alongside Scott Abramovitch’s Eat Wheaties! (national festival VOD premiere), Wendy Hill-Tout’s Marlene (national festival VOD premiere) and Michael Maxxis’ Puppy Love (Canadian premiere).

Meanwhile, Canadian shorts making their world premieres at the festival include: Aerlan Barrett’s After That; Bruce Marchfelder’s A Windward Calm; James Weicker’s Bottleneck; Elizabeth Ababio’s Detective Ultra; Alexis Chartrand’s In the Face of Danger; Inda Macias Gracia’s Muscle Memory; Marc-Andre Girard’s On the Line; Anaisa Visser’s The Walking Man; and Christian Trineer’s The Painter from Nowhere.

As well, WFF’s Content Summit will take place exclusively online from Dec. 1 to 20. Attendees set for the conference include: Content Catalyst Fund CEO Julie Bristow; filmmaker Tracey Deer; Creative BC CEO Prem Gill; Bron co-founder and president Brenda Gilbert; TikTok Canada director of content programming Gave Lindo; Impossible Objects co-founder Naveen Prasad; Vortex Media CEO Justin Rebelo and more.

Additionally, to mark its 20th anniversary, WFF also plans to welcome back 20 alumni filmmakers and actors, featuring them in online events.

Image of Sugar Daddy courtesy of WFF