Every day during this year’s festival, we’ll be offering you some supplemental reading (and the odd visual aid) in order to better inform your future viewing or appreciation of work you’ve already seen.
As this year’s edition winds its way to a close, we want to take this opportunity to once again recognize those filmmakers who won accolades at VIFF and our jurors’ considerate assessments of their accomplishments.
Sea to Sky Award
Banchi Hanuse, Nuxalk Radio
Jury Statement: Banchi Hanuse’s short documentary Nuxalk Radio delighted the jury and stood out for its immersive filmmaking and economical storytelling. Within less than four minutes, Hanuse manages to share an entire world, inviting the audience into the village of Q’umk’uts’ in Bella Coola to experience an intimate connection with the land and people. Through exquisite documentary filmmaking, Hanuse impresses upon the viewer the urgency of linguistic preservation and cultivation within Indigenous communities in Canada.
Special Mention: Meredith Hama-Brown, Cosmic
The jury wishes to give a special mention to Meredith Hama-Brown for Cosmic‘s delicate, empathetic approach to character, its rigorous, beautiful cinematography, and its strong directorial voice.
$20,000 cash prize from TELUS. This award recognizes the outstanding work of one female key creative on a BC-produced feature or short.
Best BC Film
The Curse of Willow Song (dir. Karen Lam)
The Curse of Willow Song stood out for its memorable protagonist, its specificity in world building and, above all, its spirit of risk in storytelling. Lead actor Valerie Tian portrays the role of Willow with subtlety and strength and director Karen Lam effectively creates a noir-inspired mood that is simultaneously familiar and foreboding. Both funny and darkly serious, The Curse of Willow Song manages to captivate the viewer through stylized storytelling while tackling systemic racism and socioeconomic divides in Vancouver.
$10,000 from Creative BC and $15,000 in post-production services credit supplied by Company 3.
BC Emerging Filmmaker
Jessie Anthony, Brother, I Cry
Jessie Anthony’s precocious first feature, Brother, I Cry, impressed us for its clear, powerful and ambitious voice. Through assured direction, Anthony vividly brings to life themes of drug addiction, family trauma and racialized incarceration while rooting these themes in a well-crafted social realist script. Her committed cast brings impressive nuance to their characters’ emotional struggles.
$5,000 award from UBCP/ACTRA, plus a $10,000 equipment credit supplied by William F. White International Inc.
Best Canadian Film
Beans (dir. Tracey Deer)
Combining a unique coming-of-age narrative with expert use of archival footage, Beans is a bold, one-of-a-kind experience. The memorable characters and beautiful performances show us the resilience and courage of the Mohawk people. Set in 1990 during the Oka Crisis, Tracey Deer’s film reminds us that Canada is a country founded on a system of exploitation and white supremacy. On this occasion, this system sought to protect a golf course expansion on sacred land.
Special Mention: Nadia, Butterfly (dir. Pascal Plante)
Nadia, Butterfly is a tangible exploration of a rarely seen side of the Olympic experience. The natural performances and Pascal Plante’s intuitive filming approach offer an intimate portrayal of the feelings of loss that accompany leaving behind an old identity for a new life, and the bittersweet experience of letting go.
$15,000 award presented by the Directors Guild of Canada.
Emerging Canadian Director
Dusty Mancinelli & Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Violation
Violation is a brutally visceral and emotionally mesmerizing experience that confronts the viewer with startling realism, pounding tension and memorable performances. Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli display strong control over cinematic craft and we look forward to seeing many future projects by this very talented and provocative duo.
$3,000 award presented by the Directors Guild of Canada.
Best Canadian Documentary
Call Me Human (dir. Kim O’Bomsawin)
We are pleased to award the prize for Best Canadian Documentary to Kim O’Bomsawin’s Call Me Human, the dazzling and contemplative portrait of Innu poet Josephine Bacon, a vital artist. The film gracefully invites the audience to view the world from her perspective. The jury was moved by O’Bomsawin’s quietly daring cinematic language, and the way it captures Bacon’s beautiful words, instilling a reverence for her land and all that it provides. O’Bomsawin honours Josephine Bacon with the film she deserves, one that is gloriously Innu.
Special Mention: Prayer for a Lost Mitten (dir. Jean-François Lesage)
A special mention is given to Jean-François Lesage’s Prayer for a Lost Mitten, an artful and boldly crafted formal meditation on loss, taking as its modest starting point the lost and found office of the Montreal Metro system. Through his fascinating process of approaching its subjects, Lesage created an intimate yet powerful film that radiates humanism and warmth.
$15,000 prize presented by the Rogers Group of Funds.
Best BC Short
Cake Day (dir. Phillip Thomas)
In this story about a recovering addict who slips and uses on the cusp of a big milestone, Phillip Thomas puts you in the shoes of a man who feels like a fraud for being celebrated and heralded as an inspiration to his community. Taut, eloquently performed, and beautifully captured, the film movingly allows us to witness strength being found in a moment that was originally thought to be a failure. This is an achievement of high craft. The jury recognizes Cake Day by Phillip Thomas as the Best BC Short.
Special Mention: Sunken Cave and a Migrating Bird (dir. Qiuli Wu)
The jurors wish to give a special mention to Qiuli Wu’s Sunken Cave and a Migrating Bird for its unique filmmaking approach. The jury was particularly impressed with the haunting use of sound to underscore the film’s main themes. This is a mysterious work that left us looking forward to seeing more from the director.
$5,000 award presented by TELUS Storyhive.
Best Canadian Short Film
Bad Omen (dir. Salar Pashtoonyar)
The jury recognizes Bad Omen by Salar Pashtoonyar as the VIFF 2020 Best Canadian Short Film. Showing an ordinary day in the life of a widowed woman with two young children, the film reveals the economic hardship and unjust stigma facing widows in present-day Afghanistan. The jury would like to recognize Salar’s talent and skilful artistry in crafting a simple yet powerful story of patience and everyday perseverance – a story that gently encourages empathy and understanding from its viewers.
Special Mention: Moon (dir. Zoé Pelchat)
The jurors wish to give a special mention to Moon by Zoé Pelchat. In this film, Luna, an ex-con, works towards normalcy by going on a date. Through her struggles and with self-loathing, we see her taking small steps, not just on the path to better things, but towards self-love. We commend the filmmaker for leaving the audience with a feeling of hope for things to come.
$2,000 award presented by VIFF and $15,000 in colour grading and/or VFX services credit supplied by Side Street Post.
VIFF Impact Award
The Reason I Jump (dir. Jerry Rothwell)
Kudos to the creative team for their richly cinematic exploration of autism. Not only does the film allow us entry into this unique world, it does so with sensitivity and authenticity. While acknowledging autism’s painful challenges, this riveting film is hopeful, and transformed the jury’s understanding of the subject. Rarely is the medium used so beautifully to convey both a message and an emotional experience.
$5,000 prize presented by the Lochmaddy Foundation.
Rob Stewart Eco Warrior Award
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees
$5,000 prize presented by RBC and Cineplex.