Whether you’re a ‘winter sports person’ or not, now is a great time to hit the road to Whistler. Snow is falling at higher altitudes already, and the cold mountain air is invigorating. All the better if you can time your visit to coincide with the 22nd Whistler Film Festival (in theatres November 30th to December 4th), so that when temperatures get too cold you have plenty of good reasons to head inside.
This year’s festival program features a total of 86 films – including shorts and feature-lengths from Canada and around the world – that’s a lot of warm theatre time! Bonus: all three of the festival venues are situated within easy walking distance of several excellent spots for eating and drinking between flicks. Here’s how we’re planning on dividing up our time while we’re in town…
Be one of the first in the world to watch Exile, a new thriller directed and co-produced by BC-based filmmaker, Jason James (Resonance Films). Although its WFF premiere status means that details and visuals are currently scarce, there’s still enough compelling info about the film to convince me that this is one not to be missed. The story follows newly-released-from-prison, Ted, (played by Adam Beach – enough said!) who is threatened with a sort of an-eye-for-an-eye revenge scenario by the remaining member of the family who he killed. This inspires Ted to self-exile (hence, the title), but not without complications. The whole thing unfolds in rural BC, so gorgeous and epic natural settings are to be expected, in addition to exceptional acting from Beach. | Details and tickets.
Bias accounts for about 50% of my interest in Diaspora, an epic film with an unassuming setting (that also happens to be my hometown) of Winnipeg, Manitoba. More than 20 languages and cultures are represented in the latest feature from Winnipeg filmmaker Deco Dawson, encountered via the meanderings of Eva, a newly immigrated Ukrainian woman. | Details and tickets.
The logistics of the making of Soft-Spoken Weepy Cult Child are at least as intriguing as its storyline, which focusses on the coming-of-age of Hope, who is being uprooted from one unstable living situation with her dying grandmother to another under the so-called ‘guidance’ of her mother, who is enthralled in a sex cult. This is BC-based filmmaker Irina Lord’s first film – shot for a meagre $100,000 over the course of 14 days – so her name is all over it, as writer, director, producer and editor. | Details and tickets.
Another standout WFF film that explores the complex parent-child dynamic, which was also shot over a short (40-day) filming period, is called Rodeo. It’s the tale of a Quebecois truck driver on a mission to compete in the World’s Best Truck Rodeo (a famous truck race) in Alberta, with his abducted nine-year-old daughter in tow. Besides being an edgy, pseudo-road-trip flick, this first time feature film is also an homage to director/co-writer Joelle Desjardins Paquette’s father, who introduced her to the world of big rigs as a child. | Details and tickets.
In the international film category, I’m especially excited about the latest feature from Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Iñarritu (Revenant, Birdman). Iñarritu gets seriously meta with Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, which sees the titular protagonist – a famous journalist and documentary filmmaker – embark on a contemplative trek back to his home country of Mexico to receive some awards (the making of Bardo also marks its filmmaker’s cinematic return to his very same home country, for the first time since filming Amos Perros in 2002). Besides all of its promise, the idea of blissing out in front of warm scenes of Mexico for the nearly three-hour-long running time of Bardo is also incredibly enticing! | Details and tickets.
The Deli by Picnic
Grab a quick lunch between screenings and stock up on provisions for your hotel room at The Deli by Picnic Whistler. Known for their gorgeous charcuterie spreads, Picnic catering opened their quaint brick-and-mortar deli offspring Whistler Village last spring. Expect a thoughtful selection of locally made fresh, frozen and dry goods, plus a well-stocked case of cheeses and meats, of course! Having trouble decision-making? Their pre-made charcuterie boxes are always a solid choice. The Deli is open daily from 11am to 5pm. Take note: they will be closed briefly at the beginning of December, and will re-open on December 9th.
Get your pastry and coffee fix at The Bunker. We haven’t been yet, but this little cafe and bakery keeps popping onto our radar – in part because they just so happen to stock some of our favourite sourdough bread, Rising Knead, in addition to a bunch of made-in-house pastries and sweets.
Barn Nork Aharn Thai
Make time for a visit to Barn Nork (the authentic mom-and-pop restaurant relocated from Mt. Currie to Whistler earlier this year). There’s nothing like a proper Thai curry – Gang Kiew Waan, Massaman Nua or Massaman Puk – along with a crisp local craft beer, good hospitality, and in a home-y, unpretentious environment to warm you up. Barn Nork primarily does take-out, but there are also a super limited number of reservations available for one of their (literally) handful of tables – so call ahead to book, if you can.
When in Whistler, dinner at Il Caminetto is a no-brainer: not only is it a stress-free (5-10 min) walk from all three participating WFF theatres, but they’ve also got a super sweet four course prix fixe menu on right now for just $39. Yes please! Check out the menu here.
Wild Blue Restaurant
In town to splurge? Recently opened (August 2022) Wild Blue Restaurant can help you with that. Treat yourself to a meal featuring the best sustainable and seasonal local ingredients re-imagined by Executive Chef Derek Bendig. Or pull up to the bar for a post-screening debriefing/debate while slurping down oysters and sipping on a cocktail. Or, both!
Another great option for fuelling up in-between screenings is slipping into the newly revamped Bar Oso for a cocktail or some Mulled Sangria, and a few small bites – like olives, daily croquetas, pinxtos (skewered tapas), and montaditos (Spanish tapas on artisan bread). Just because you don’t have a ton of time to spare, doesn’t mean you can’t eat and drink well! Stay tuned to Bar Oso’s Instagram for their official re-opening date announcement.
STRETCH YOUR LEGS
Balance out all of that time spent sitting indoors eating and watching a screen, and get out to stretch your legs. If it remains cold enough outside, there’s a good chance there will be at least one frozen-over lake to skate on – so bring your ice skates, if you have them! The Whistler Olympic Plaza rink is a good back-up plan. It will be open for the season (weather permitting) from 11am to 8:30pm daily, beginning November 25th, 2022. Skate rentals and safety gear are all available. Find out more.
There’s a rad exhibition currently on display in the Audain Art Museum (until January 8th, 2023), called Out of Control: The Concrete Art of Skateboarding. It features 19 different artists from Vancouver and around the world, all who are making work exploring the various aspects of skateboarding. Find out more.