500 Days in the Wild is the winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Whistler Film Festival. The B.C. festival announced the prize in the home stretch of the online component that complements the in-person screenings. Directed by Dianne Whelan and produced by Betsy Carson, 500 Days in the Wild follows Whelan along an epic six-year journey as she traverses all 24,000 km of the Trans Canada Trail and connects with Indigenous communities from coast to coast. Whelan made history as the first person to achieve the feat.
Earlier in the festival, 500 Days in the Wild received an honourable mention in the World Documentary category. The winner of the World Documentary prize was Altona, directed by the Affolter Brothers. The Canadian doc is a true crime tale that explores a shocking case in which survivor Tyler Pleke confronts his ability to forgive the person responsible for the violent attack that altered his life. Both films had their world premieres at Whistler. Altona is playing as part of the online festival, which streams until December 17. 500 Days in the Wild opens in theatres in 2024 with a streaming release on Paramount+ to follow.
Other Whistler winners previously announced include the drama Atikamekw Suns (Soleils Atikamekw), which topped the Borsos Competition with the prize for Best Canadian Feature Film. The drama by Chloé Leriche tells the story of a 1977 case in which five members of the Atikamekw First Nation in Quebec were murdered in a case that drew little interest from the authorities. The film also won the awards for Best Director and Best Performance, the latter of which was given to the ensemble cast. This year’s Whistler Film Festival opened with the Canadian premiere of Bradley Cooper’s Maestro and screened docs including Immediate Family and Canada’s Oscar bid Rojek.