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The Whistler Film Festival will open with the Benedict Cumberbatch Second World War spy thriller The Imitation Game – one of a slate of films considered to be Oscar contenders set to screen at Whistler this year.

The Whistler Film Festival will open with the Benedict Cumberbatch Second World War spy thriller The Imitation Game – one of a slate of films considered to be Oscar contenders set to screen at Whistler this year.

The strong lineup, made public on Wednesday, also includes the Canadian premiere of the Oscar Isaac/Jessica Chastain feature A Most Violent Year – a coup for the small festival. Other highlights include Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore as a woman dealing with an early onset Alzheimer's diagnosis; the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything; Felix and Meira, which was named best Canadian feature film at this year's Toronto International Film Festival; The Backward Class, which won the audience award at this year's Hot Docs; Point and Shoot, which won best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival and is also getting Oscar buzz; and the documentary '71 which has received nine nominations for the British Independent Film Awards.

"Something is just happening this year," Paul Gratton, the Whistler Film Festival's director of programming, told The Globe and Mail about the stellar lineup. "I'm really excited."

Of 41 features to be screened at Whistler, 22 are world premieres – unprecedented for this festival. Half of the world premieres are Canadian. They include Bad City, the new film from veteran Vancouver-based director Carl Bessai; and The Cocksure Lads, written and directed by Murray Foster – best known for playing with Great Big Sea and Moxy Fruvous – who seeks funding for the project from Dragons' Den this season.

The festival's closing gala is the world premiere of Snowman, the feature documentary from Whistler's Mike Douglas about a B.C. avalanche consultant's close call in the mountains.

The Whistler Film Festival runs Dec. 3 to 7.

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