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Diverse offerings from Whistler Film Festival


courtley love in old Vienna
Eighteenth century Vienna is the backdrop for Carlos Saura’s I, Don Giovanni.

In the 10th Whistler Film Festival, which ends December 5, it is worth noting that cult Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald has three new feature films in the festival: 1) the world premiere of Hard Core Logo 2, the sequel to his popular Hard Core Logo (1996); 2) the jailhouse blues documentary Music From the Big House; 3) the rock ‘n’ roll drama Trigger.

Trigger travels to Vancouver for a week at Vancity Theatre (10-16). The film sees McDonald on home turf depicting under-the-skin, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyles, with two of Canada’s finest actors: Molly Parker and the late Tracy Wright as Vic and Kat, ageing rockers from a ‘90s rock band called Trigger. (Don McKellar, Callum Keith Rennie and Sarah Polley also feature.) The two reunite for a tribute show, but as the night unfolds, old antagonisms keep flaring up.

As the title suggests, the period setting for Carlos Saura’s sumptuous drama I, Don Giovanni is 18th century Vienna around the time that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was penning his opera Don Giovanni. The story focuses on libertine Lorenzo da Ponte, a priest exiled from Venice as a result of his string of affairs. Lorenzo is the inspiration behind Mozart’s opera and he also became the lyricist for the project. I, Don Giovanni also screens at Vancity Theatre, from December 17.

It’s been almost a full decade since the documentary Promises managed to find a ray of hope in the entrenched Israeli-Palestinian conflict when it turned the camera on a group of seven local children from either side of the divide. The plight of a single child is the starting point of a new thought provoking Israeli documentary, Precious Life (Haim yekarim), which looks at personal responses to the endless violence and instability in the region.

During Israel’s 2008-2009 blockade of Gaza, narrator and Israeli television journalist Shlomi Eldar, looking for a story, helps a local surgeon raise $55,000 for a bone marrow operation for an immune-disorder Palestinian baby, Mohammad. However, what would initially appear to be a story about two sides overcoming prejudices to save a child’s life is not so straightforward. Raida, the religiously observant baby’s mother, struggles with anti-Israeli sentiment from her community in Gaza and at one point endorses suicide bombing, creating unforeseen moral dilemmas. The doc is due out this month.

The feel-good factor is there in spades in mainstream drama Made In Dagenham (out Dec. 17), a heart-warming feminist tale based on a British labour dispute in 1968. Sally Hawkins plays a feisty factory worker who, at the urgings of her union representative (played by Bob Hoskins), leads 167 machine workers at the Ford Motor Company’s plant in the London suburb of Dagenham on a strike for equal pay. The two-year-long campaign resulted in landmark legislation.

Another crowd-pleaser is The King’s Speech (out Dec. 10), which sees Colin Firth in that buttoned-up, upper crust role that he does so well. King George VI (Firth) struggled desperately with a stammer at a time when more than ever before, with Hitler’s rise in Germany, England needed a leader with strong oratorical skills. Successive attempts to conquer his debilitating condition ended in failure until an Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) helped him to untangle his tongue.

Finally, the European Film Festival runs at Pacific Cinémathèque until December 9, with films from Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, UK, Romania, Portugal, Hungary and Slovenia screening this month. One to look out for is France’s Of Gods and Men (3rd, 6.45 PM). The Grand Prix winner at the Cannes Film festival, it dramatizes with great poignancy the true story of a brotherhood of Cistercian monks who, during the Algerian war of the 1990s, chose to peacefully face Islamic extremists rather than quit their monastic duties.

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike Alone. He writes at