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Deepa Mehta's 'Funny Boy' chosen as Canada's contender for international film Oscar

Last Updated Oct 29, 2020 at 3:08 pm EST

Toronto-based director Deepa Mehta’s upcoming drama “Funny Boy” is Canada’s selection in the 2021 Oscars race for best international feature film.

Telefilm Canada says a pan-Canadian committee of approximately 20 voting delegates chose the project, which is based on the bestselling Canadian novel by Shyam Selvadurai.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences must now decide which films will move on to the next round of voting in the category.

Mehta’s film “Water” made it through the multi-step process in 2007, ultimately competing at the Oscars for best foreign language film, the category’s previous name.

Last year’s Canadian selection was Montreal writer-director Sophie Deraspe’s francophone refugee drama “Antigone,” which ultimately did not get selected for a nomination.

“Funny Boy” is a coming-of-age story of a young boy growing up gay in Sri Lanka during the deadly Tamil-Sinhalese conflict.

Mehta co-wrote the screenplay with Selvadurai, while three-time Oscar-winning Canadian composer Howard Shore did the score.

The director shot the film in Sri Lanka with a mostly Sri Lankan cast and largely in the Tamil language, but also had some Canadian actors.

“I feel it’s really relevant to what’s happening in the world right now: the populist governments, the divisiveness,” Mehta said this week in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.

Ava DuVernay’s company ARRAY Releasing recently acquired the film, which will debut on CBC-TV on Dec. 4 and then hit the CBC Gem streaming service, followed by Netflix outside of Canada on Dec. 10.

Mehta’s other credits include the films “Fire” and “Earth,” “Heaven on Earth” and “Midnight’s Children.”

The 2021 Oscars will take place later than usual, on April 25, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press