Whistler While You Work: A Report from the Festival

December 12, 2022

View from atop Blackcomb Mountain

Earlier this month, three members of the Toronto Film Critics Association travelled to the Whistler Film Festival. Basking in the magnitude of the mountains, our critics had three days to take in movies, enjoy scenic views, and explore a refreshingly new festival environment. The Whistler Film Festival kicked off with Noah Baumbach’s White Noise on opening night and closed with the North American premiere of Thierry Donard’s sports doc Human Extreme. Between those screenings, Whistler hosted a slate of Canadian and international films, including 14 Canuck dramas in the Borsos Competition. Katherine Jerkovic’s Coyote won the competition’s Best Canadian Feature Award, while Joëlle Desjardins Paquette won Best Director for Rodeo. Screenings are happening online for most films through January 2nd.

Here are some highlights, thoughts, and pro tips from the TFCA team at Whistler.

Rachel Ho, Pat Mullen, and Marriska Fernandes at the Whistler Film Festival

What defines the Whistler Film Festival experience for you?

The Whistler Film Fest experience is a combo of movies and mountains. You meet fellow film lovers and enjoy watching movies on the big screen, followed by a walk in the snow-covered mountains while taking in the breathtaking views – and you may or may not see a bear en route. – Marriska Fernandes

There’s nothing quite like being greeted by a mountain view on your way to a film and sitting in the cinema alongside people in snow pants and ski boots. More than most festivals, the location defines the experience. It’s hard to beat movies atop a mountain. – Rachel Ho

The fresh air? There’s something therapeutic about emerging from a screening and breathing in crisp, fresh air, as opposed to the chaos of TIFF where you’re greeted with hordes of fans mobbing Taylor Swift, honking drivers, and the smell of hot dogs and street traffic. You can escape the festival frenzy with a fun jaunt up the Whistler Blackcomb peak-to-peak gondola, or take a breather with a hike down some trails. Weirdly, I think the Whistler Film Festival experience is almost defined by the feeling that you’re not at a festival. You’re sort of just up there in the mountains and if you want to see some movies, then great. – Pat Mullen

Glass Onion, Sanctuary, and Rodeo were some of the best films at Whistler this year

Best film at the festival?

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. This was my third time watching it and the moviegoing experience is unparalleled. Watching this film is a treat every time. Seeing it with a crowd especially elevates it. Daniel Craig is back and goes bigger with his performance, so having the audience cheer him on as he appears in a pivotal scene is certainly a memorable moment. – MF

Sanctuary. I’d been looking forward to watching Zachary Wigon’s thriller after hearing such great things about it during TIFF. The Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott two-hander was everything I wanted, but also not at all what I expected. The story of a sub attempting to break things off with his dom, who then she seeks an appropriate severance package given her impact on his life, takes wild twists and turns all within a jewel-coloured hotel suite. Wherever you think the movie is going, I can assure you that it isn’t heading in that direction. – RH

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed was the best film at Whistler, but in terms of “new to me,” Rodeo was tops in a complete runaway. Director Joëlle Desjardins Paquette delivers an invigorating feature debut with this portrait of a father (Maxime Le Flaguais) who abducts his daughter (Lilou Roy-Lanouette) amid a strained divorce. They haul ass in his big rig with dreams of winning a drag race in the Alberta badlands. There are echoes of Thelma & Louise in this ill-fated road movie, but also hints of Nomadland and Malick thanks to the sumptuous cinematography that captures the horizon with bittersweet poetry. Desjardins Paquette has a natural eye for people and places, drawing out excellent performances by her two leads while rooting Rodeo in the grand malaise of the Canadian landscape. I also really liked Midnight at the Paradise, which featured appearances by Toronto’s Paradise Cinema and the Regent Theatre, which offered a body double for the Paradise’s interiors. It made me really sad that the Regent, my local rep cinema, closed during lockdown. – PM

Pro tip

Bundle up and plan ahead. Keep those layers on, as it does get colder, especially in the evening. If you make a schedule of films and panels ahead of time, you can plan some down time for checking out the restaurants, the shopping, and even get some snowboarding in. Also, if you are in Whistler, a Gondola trip up Blackcomb Mountain is a must. – MF

Warmth over fashion. The early days of winter in Whistler are still winter. Thermals, puffy coats, heavy boots, and wool toques are necessary. Don’t worry about heels and formal attire: Whistler Film Festival is one for the cozy chic among us. – RH

A return traveller on our trip recommended a bakery called Purebread. It should be your go-to place for sweets and eats during the festival. I highly recommend the boozy apple cake and the savoury scones. Their coffee isn’t great, though, so grab a baked good and then jaunt over to Mount Currie Coffee for the best brews in the ’hood. Whistler is a refreshingly walkable festival, so it’s quite easy to stretch your legs and grab a bit between screenings. (There’s also no TIFF-like queuing for hours, as screening attendance is relatively scant.) Whistler doesn’t have anything on TIFF when it comes to the after party game, though, so try Brickworks for cocktails. That blue cheese dirty martini is perfect fuel for a post-screening discussion! The Raven Room, situated in the hotel directly above the Village Cinemas, also has a mean cocktail game to follow the Canadian screenings. Their breakfast cocktail is next level! – PM


Would you return?

Most definitely – it’s certainly a unique film festival experience. – MF

Yes! Fresh mountain air, great Canadian talent and stunning views — what’s not to love? – RH

I think so, although I would probably take in more industry content, since that seems to be Whistler’s forte. I’d also tag a day or two of sightseeing on either end, rather than try to do everything (everywhere) all at once. – PM


Stream select films from the 2022 Whistler Film Festival are now streaming through January 2.