Film ‘Scarborough,’ TV series ‘Transplant’ and ‘Sort Of’ top Canadian Screen Awards

By Adina Bresge

TORONTO – The directors of “Scarborough” say the suburban drama’s standout showing at the Canadian Screen Awards is a testament to the east Toronto community that made it possible.

The book-to-screen adaptation collected three marquee prizes at Sunday’s televised bash, including best picture, making it the top film winner with a grand total of eight trophies over the weeklong celebration of cinema, television and digital media.

Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson, who pocketed the prize for best direction, said they were thrilled to see their first feature garner so much acclaim from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, even though the movie was made with a different audience in mind.

“First and foremost, it was really important to us that the film was connecting with the people that we made it for, and everything above that was a bonus,” Nakhai told a virtual news conference Sunday.

“For all of the work that everyone put into the film to be seen by the Canadian film industry, that means a lot.”

Williamson said the success of “Scarborough” is a credit to the community it captures, many of whom offered their time, talent and trust to support the low-budget production.

The movie featured a mix of seasoned and first-time actors to tell the story of a trio children and their caregivers who find connection in their collective struggle against the forces of poverty, prejudice, abuse and addiction.

Among the film’s young stars was Liam Diaz, who won best lead actor Sunday for his performance as Bing, a Filipino boy grappling with trauma.

The 13-year-old said he heard his parents scream from downstairs when his name was called during the broadcast, which he hopes his friends tuned in for despite it being a school night.

“Going into the film, I was really shy,” Diaz told reporters. “Doing movies helped me step out of my comfort zone.”

Leading the TV winners was CTV’s “Transplant,” which cleaned up the drama categories.

The medical show won best drama series and acting honours for leads Hamza Haq and Laurence Leboeuf, for an overall haul of eight prizes.

CBC’s gender-fluid millennial dramedy “Sort Of” nabbed best comedy series, clinching a total of three trophies for its inaugural season.

Co-creator Bilal Baig said the show is a “love letter” to the communities it represents, including queer and transgender people, depicting characters in ways that aren’t often seen onscreen.

“This show does mean a lot to a lot of people,” Baig told reporters. “I feel like there’s a lot of wins within the community right now, because there’s so much that resonates for us.”

Other big winners on Sunday’s awards broadcast, which aired on CBC and its streamer, Gem, was CBC’s “Kim’s Convenience,” which saw stars Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon respectively named best lead actor and actress in a comedy series.

The prize for best feature-length documentary went to “Kimmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy” from filmmaker Elle-Maija Tailfeathers from the Kainai First Nation.

Tailfeathers was also recognized for performing talents as best lead actress in “Night Raiders,” adding a sixth award to the Indigenous thriller’s collection.

A visibly emotional Tailfeathers thanked Cree-Metis director Danis Goulet and the rest of the film’s team, dedicating the award to her family.

“I’d like to dedicate it to my grandparents, who both survived residential school and lived their lives with love, strength and dignity,” said Tailfeathers.

“And to my father who survived the Sami boarding school system and to my mother, who showed me what living and leading with love looks like.”

The futuristic film was among the runners-up for best picture alongside “Drunken Birds,” “Night of the Kings” and “Wildhood.”

Sunday’s festivities capped off a banner run for “Scarborough,” which had five honours under its belt heading into the ceremony.

Nakhai and Williamson, who have a background in documentaries, snagged a best first feature film award Friday, which came with a $25,000 cash prize.

Author Catherine Hernandez took best adapted screenplay for her script based on her 2017 debut novel.

Cherish Violet Blood was named best supporting actress, and the production nabbed accolades for casting and sound editing.

The hour-long, pre-taped awards show opened with the comedy stylings of the TallBoyz and featured guest appearances by stars including Catherine O’Hara, Simu Liu and Tatiana Maslany.

The CSAs named the bulk of the winners in a series of virtual events that covered 145 categories spanning cinema, scripted programming, documentary, broadcast news, reality TV, live sports and children’s animation.