I love everything about film festivals. Having written about them for nearly 20 years now, it’s not only a personal passion but I also enjoy spreading the word of the movies I see to an audience. Getting to see movies throughout a select amount of days, meeting the filmmakers, talking movies and shop with fellow film festival buffs?
Of course, 2020 threw a monkey wrench in all of this. Many of the film festivals I like to attend – South By Southwest, Toronto International Film Festival, and many more – all cancelled in a way or went to a virtual streaming service.
The cancellation of Whistler Film Festival left an even bigger hole in my heart as this is a festival I started to cover in 2007 and have been involved with ever since. At this point of the year, it is like my own personal Christmas. For a regular individual they would be doing their annual holiday shopping, hanging up lights and even making dinner plans. For this film festival nut, Whistler Film Festival is THE destination for not only great movies but in a magical setting where all of the screening and events are within walking distance of each other…and my hotel is 30 seconds away.
With the virus pandemic still with its stronghold over everyone, film festivals have gone “virtual” using online streaming services instead of the usual process of travelling to our filmic destination. For many months I have resisted “Virtual” festivals as they have nothing on the actual film festival experience and are a poor substitution for the experience you get of living the film festival life. It just isn’t the same.
But for Whistler Film Festival I needed to make an exception. With industry-leading programming by long-time industry friends Paul Gratton and Nikki Segovia along with an amazing small team of film lovers, this year’s edition is still very much alive with features, shorts and industry events all tied together. And to make things even more accessible, all of Canada can take part in screenings and industry talks this time around. Let’s hope that when in-person festivals start that we can have even more people join me in Whistler Village in 2021.
There are so many wonderful features and shorts here that instead of reviewing EVERYTHING all in one article, Get Reel Movies will be featuring daily content throughout December 20th profiling top Canadian content, American Indies, select foreign product and a mixture of mountain culture and the always-terrific Shortwork Showcase, programmed by Kristyn Stilling.
Even though it’s all online, we are nevertheless here for the movies and the fine folks at the festival sent me their lineup to check out. While nothing beats the big screen experience, I was still able to stream many movies and shorts through my handy Apple TV box and 65” 4K TV. Over the next few weeks you will get a chance to read up on many of the movies playing in WFF and hope you will join me. Virtually, of course.
SUGAR DADDY (dir. Wendy Morgan, Ontario)
The opening night movie is something of a revelation; this is a tried-and-true Canadian Indie featuring new voices and pure energy featuring one of the most unforgettable lead performances in recent memory.
Darren (Kelly McCormack) is a mid 20s, down on her luck aspiring musician who is looking to make ends meet and also create her music. When she meets a former colleague at a party and learns of going on dates with older men for money, she takes it as a mean to kick-start her life, and one of the men she meets (Colm Feore) may have the connections that she needs. That’s just a simple explanation of Wendy Morgan’s incredible feature debut that depicts the roads that SUGAR DADDY takes. Moment after moment is captivating as we follow Darren on this journey of self-discovery, and the key to the success of this film is the unforgettable lead performance by Kelly McCormack. I feel like I have never seen a performance like this in the movies before; McCormack’s depiction of Darren is raw, fierce and unpredictable and you wind up completely captivated by her spirit. Right from the first few moments of her sharp, intense eyes we are immediately drawn to her, and her journey does NOT take any easy turns as she deeply questions her life motives. She has flaws, she makes choices good AND bad, and we still admire her regardless. Where this leads I’ll leave for you to discover, although I wish I could have experienced this with a sold out crowd with an audience at Whistler’s Rainbow Theater. Let’s hope things clear up in 2021 and we can see this movie again in theaters.
Rating: **** out of ****
SUGAR DADDY starts today on the virtual edition of Whistler Film Festival. Thanks to publicist Ally La Mere and our media partners at LevelFilm for assistance with this review.
#WFF20 is here! Join us in celebrating cinematic excellence with 97 fresh films, including 30 features and 67 shorts, premiering from December 1 to 20 and available to national audiences online until December 31. Once you order a film, you have 24 hours to watch it. (We at Get Reel Movies stand by our Streamer Box of choice, Apple TV through the Eventival app) Plus, WFF has pledged to share net online proceeds on a 50/50 basis directly with the filmmakers or Canadian rights holders.
For more information on screening instructions, point your browser to the official site!