CANADIAN STARS SHINE LIGHT ON DIVERSITY AT THE 2019 CANADIAN SCREEN AWARDS

Canada’s biggest movie and television stars stepped out in style for the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards held at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto on March 31. The annual show was the culmination of a week-long celebration which honours the best in Canadian film, TV, news and digital storytelling.

Much like the U.S. Academy Awards, the Canadian Academy of Film and Television decided to go hostless this year. Instead of a single spotlight, there was a threshold of Canadian talent to announce winners and hand over 18 of the Canadian Screen Awards.

As always, it is our duty to pay attention to the representation of what we are consuming. As the entertainment industry continues to challenge the diversity in representation, gender balance and even francophone support, Sunday’s ceremony was incredibly notable — with 60 per cent of the night’s film nominees being directed by women. The awards show itself had an all-female writers’ room and was also directed by women.

Throughout the night, trophies were hoisted again and again by female filmmakers and creators, including for best motion picture (Geneviève Dulude-De Celles, Fanny Drew and Sarah Mannering for Une Colony), best feature film director (Jasmin Mozaffari for Firecrackers), best documentary (Jennifer Baichwal for Anthropocene: The Human Epoch) and best dramatic series (Moira Walley-Beckett and Miranda de Pencier for Anne with an E).

“I think I’m one of the few women to win this award. I don’t think I’ll be the last. Just watch,” Mozaffari says as she accepted the directing award for her debut feature Firecrackers.

Schitt’s Creek, Anne with an E and Cardinal received the top TV honours at the Canadian Screen Awards.

Anne with an E (based on the classic novel Anne of Green Gables) won a total of seven awards throughout the week, tying the crime drama series Cardinal for the most wins overall. In the press room, the producers of Anne with an E said they plan to continue to expand upon tying young women’s modern issues to the show in the upcoming season, not giving away any further details.

Rising star Stephan James might have had a stellar year after starring in the Oscar contender If Beale Street Could Talk and earning a Golden Globe nomination for Homecoming. But as the first winner of the new Radius Award, it had his mind on those who might be coming up behind him.

“I want to dedicate this award to all the little black boys and girls across the country. Perhaps you are watching this now. I want to tell you that your craziest dreams, your wildest imaginations are all possible no matter where you are, no matter where you come from. Scarborough to the world,” James declared as he accepted the honour, established to recognize a current talent that’s been making waves globally.

Backstage, he spoke of the B.L.A.C.K. Ball — an initiative he and his brother Shamier Anderson have created to spotlight young filmmakers of colour.

“We’ve always wanted to try and trailblaze … and try and create the blueprint for young men and young women who look like us to be inspired by seeing themselves on the screen,” he explained.

Meanwhile, lifetime achievement award-winner Deepa Mehta shared some of the many labels she’s faced as a director throughout her career.

“I have been described as a controversial filmmaker, a feminist filmmaker, a lesbian filmmaker, an anti-war filmmaker and a terrible filmmaker,” Mehta recalled. “But one common theme in my work is tolerance and understanding and accepting of the other.

“We in this room must ensure that we continue to create a country that is not divisive and where dialogue continues to be possible.”

This year’s film contenders are a lesser-known bunch, with the best film category completely dominated by French-language titles. The leading movie nominees are both thrillers: the apocalyptic drama Just a Breath Away (Dans la brume) and the French-and-English tale of The Great Darkened Days (La grande noirceur), which tied with eight nominations each.

Nothern Ontario experienced a bit love from Cardinal actors Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse, who both scored trophies for their roles on the series — which is filmed in Northern Ontario.

In an emotional and tearful speech, Campbell thanked the local cast and crew that accompany him in northern Ontario.

“If there is a more professional, friendly and passionate place to make films, I just haven’t been there yet,” said Campbell in his speech, mentioning both Sudbury and North Bay. “I’m a Yank and I’m particularly thankful to Canada these days.

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