TORONTO – “Maudie,” starring recent Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins as real-life Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis and Ethan Hawke as her fish peddler husband, took a leading seven film trophies on Sunday as light-hearted Canuck jokes mixed with politically charged speeches at the Canadian Screen Awards.
The Canada-Ireland co-production won best picture as well as best supporting actor for Hawke and best actress for Hawkins, who was recently nominated for an Oscar for her starring turn in the Ontario-shot, Academy Award-winning film “The Shape of Water.”
“Maudie”‘s other wins included best direction for Aisling Walsh and best original screenplay for Sherry White.
The Newfoundland and Labrador-shot drama details Lewis’s perseverance through juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, poverty and ill treatment from her community and loved ones to become an internationally acclaimed painter.
“Because ‘Maudie’ came out like a year earlier than ‘The Shape of Water,’ there was a lot of … really early Oscar buzz around her performance in (‘Maudie’) and then ‘The Shape of Water’ came in and kind of stole that buzz,” White said with a laugh backstage.
“Because you can’t be nominated for two (Oscars), so that kind of stole our thunder, but that’s OK.”
Another east coast story took a top honour on the TV side.
CBC/Netflix’s “Anne,” featuring the plucky Prince Edward Island heroine from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel, was named best drama series for creators Moira Walley-Beckett and Miranda de Pencier.
Cast member R. H. Thomson landed a supporting-actor trophy earlier in the week, resulting in just two wins for the series that had a leading 13 nominations.
The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television puts on the Canadian Screen Awards, which handed out awards in 132 categories that also included television and digital media. The bulk of the trophies were handed out earlier in the week. Sunday’s show aired from Toronto’s Sony Centre of Performing Arts on CBC
Co-hosts Jonny Harris and Emma Hunter offered light-hearted banter about Canada that was balanced out by onstage remarks from attendees about diversity, inclusion and gender inclusion onscreen and off.
“I think a show like ‘Kim’s Convenience’ is proof that representation matters,” said Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who won an acting trophy for “Kim’s Convenience,” which also won best comedy series.
“When you give people a voice, other people start listening, and when people start listening, things start to change — and we need change, we need to affect change.”
The phrase “representation matters” was also repeated by Eritrea-born actor Nabil Rajo, who won an award for the Montreal car-jacking drama film “Boost,” and Elise Bauman, star of the web series “Carmilla” who got the Cogeco Fund Audience Choice Award.
Other big film winners at Sunday’s show included the Oscar-nominated animated drama “The Breadwinner,” which won four trophies, including best adapted screenplay for Anita Doron. Nora Twomey directed the Canadian co-production, which is based on homegrown author Deborah Ellis’s children’s novel about a young girl who helps her family in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
“I think her courage and compassion started it all,” Doran said backstage of Ellis, who based her book on the testimony of Afghan women she spoke with in refugee camps in Pakistan.
“Everybody on the team was making the same film with the same intention — to be authentic, to tell the truth and to tell the truth of this girl.”
Also netting four awards was “Hochelaga, Land of Souls,” which was Canada’s pick for the best foreign-language film category at this year’s Oscars but ultimately didn’t make the short list. Written and directed by Quebec’s Francois Girard, the French-language drama looks at Montreal’s history through an archeological dig after a sinkhole opens up under a stadium in Montreal.
The star-packed Sundance Film Festival hit “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” by Catherine Bainbridge, about Indigenous musicians who have shaped popular music, got three nods including best feature length documentary.
Best limited series or program went to CBC-TV’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel “Alias Grace.” Sarah Gadon was also honoured for her starring turn as an Irish maid who was convicted of murder in Upper Canada in 1843 and exonerated decades later.
“Cardinal” star Billy Campbell won best lead actor, while “Baroness von Sketch Show” was honoured for its ensemble performance.
Other acting honours went to Catherine O’Hara of CBC’s riches-to-rags comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” Alexander Ludwig of the History series “Vikings,” Tatiana Maslany of the Space sci-fi series “Orphan Black,” and Bahar Nouhian of the Tehran teen drama film “Ava.”
Efforts to eradicate sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry was a topic on the red carpet as attendees wore pins for the #AfterMeToo group, which recently partnered with the Canadian Women’s Foundation to establish a fund for sexual violence support services.
Atwood, who got the Academy Board of Directors’ Tribute at the show, said she’s supporting the #AfterMeToo fund by donating herself and giving the proceeds from two events she’s doing in April.
Atwood and CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge were among nine recipients of a special award at the show.
Mansbridge, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, used his speech to tout the importance of telling the truth and being transparent in an era of fake news.
“I strongly believe that truth is under attack and it’s not under attack by just one person in one country, it spreads across borders,” Mansbridge said later backstage.
“We’re at a very important point here in this issue and I think we have to stand up for ourselves and stand up for each other, because there’s a lot at stake on this.”