Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Whistler Film Festival Borsos Competition

Isabella Rossellini in Guy Maddin's Keyhole
Isabella Rossellini in Guy Maddin's Keyhole
Credit: Supplied

WE COVER STORY PT. 2: Borsos award shines spotlight on Canadian films

Internationally, Canadian films and filmmakers are still struggling to get the recognition they deserve. But they’re the proud centrepiece of the Whistler Film Festival thanks to the esteemed Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature Film. But it’s not simply the $15,000 prize that has filmmakers clamoring for the honour; it’s living up to the legacy of the man behind the title, the late Phillip Borsos (The Grey Fox and Bethune: The Making of a Hero).

The Vancouver-based director/producer was just 41 years old when he succumbed to leukemia in 1995, devastating his family and community, and cutting short an award-winning career that had already altered the Canadian film scene. But as time passed, his widow, Beret Borsos, wasn’t sure how or if her husband’s legacy would be remembered. Until, that is, local filmmaker and Whistler Film Festival board member Carl Bessai came calling.

“They wanted to do something to honour Phillip and they thought that tying an award named for him to a festival that has a truly West Coast identity was a really good match,” Borsos recalls. “I’d been out of the whole film loop for a long time and sometimes I wasn’t sure if Phillip had just been forgotten, so it was tremendously moving for me to realize he wasn’t. And it also seemed to be something so lovely for my boys.”

The competition is open to up to eight feature films of new, narrative work by Canadian filmmakers, but prides itself on celebrating independent vision and diversity. Borsos says the focus aligns itself well with her late husband’s love for discovering and advising young talent — particularly now that their eldest son, Angus Borsos, is also a filmmaker and therefore a potential future Borsos Competition contender — provided he gets past the judges, of course, she laughs.


This year’s competition boasts six features that will definitely redefine what it means to be an indie Canadian flick. WE has the scoop about what to expect from the 2011 contenders.

Starring Nick Stahl, Mia Kirshner
Directed by Randall Cole
A 1984-inspired thriller about a couple who doesn’t realized they’re being watched 24/7, shot entirely from the vantage point of surveillance and handheld cameras. Think the Blair Witch Project meets The Lives of Others, with a privileged Toronto twist and some very pretty actors.

Starring Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
A love story that weaves back and forth between a recently divorced DJ in present-day Montreal and the young mother of a disabled son in 1960s Paris. Atmospheric, tragic and French, it promises to be a heady, gorgeously filmed trip through the fantastical.

DOPPLEGANGER PAUL (Or A Film About How Much I Hate Myself)
Starring Tygh Runyan, Brad Dryborough, Ben Cotton
Directed by Dylan Akio Smith & Kris Elgstrand
A delightfully bizarre dark comedy wherein a man escapes a near-death experience and then meets his doppelgänger, which sets in motion an only-in-the-movies chain of events: a lost thumb, a stolen manuscript, riding a miniature train, morning talk show appearances and a road trip to Portland.

Starring Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini
Directed by Guy Maddin
Moody, atmospheric, beautiful and disturbing — so, yep, a Guy Maddin film, but that’s where the similarities end. This is a 1930s gangster picture set in a haunted house, where it’s almost impossible to tell when waking life ends and the dream world begins.

Starring Allison Mack and Simone Bailly
Directed and written by Christopher Petry
Another atmospheric pic — this one shot in the gritty style of the 1970s — about a bank robber on the lam with a young runaway. But it’s the source material that fascinates: a story written by Patrick “Paddy” Mitchell of the Stopwatch Gang while he was in prison.

Starring Fellag, Marie-Ève Beauregard, Marie Charlebois, Evelyne de la Chenelière
Directed by Philippe Falardeau
This French-language flick about a 55-year-old Algerian immigrant dealing with personal tragedy and juggling his new job as a substitute teacher is already a winner: it was named the Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF and is Canada’s official selection for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film.

Whistler Film Fest runs Nov. 30-Dec. 4. Info: WhistlerFilmFestival.com.

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