Tracey Deer’s Beans is the winner of the 2021 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. The drama draws from Deer’s experience coming of age amid the 1990 Oka Crisis in which the Mohawks defended their land from settler development and endured a 78 standoff with police and the Canadian Armed Forces. The film stars Kiawentiio in the title role and is Deer’s first dramatic feature after early work in documentary, including Mohawk Girls and the hit dramatic TV series the doc inspired. Beans is available on home video from Mongrel Media.
As the winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award, Deer receives a cash prize of $100,000, courtesy of Rogers. The award is the largest cash prize in Canadian film. Previous winners Jennifer Biachwal (Anthropocene: The Human Epoch) and Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell), presented the award along with Rogers Vice-Chair, Phil Lind. Deer was unable to attend the ceremony, but Beans co-writer and executive producer Meredith Vuchnich accepted the award on her behalf and offered some emotional words sent by Deer. As runners-up, directors Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson (Scarborough) and director Danis Goulet (Night Raiders) each received $5,000 from Rogers Communications.
“All three nominated films were so strong this year, and I congratulate all four filmmakers,” TFCA President Johanna Schneller said in a statement. “But Tracey Deer’s passion shone through every frame of Beans. She lived this story. Recounting it was tough – it took her eight years just to write the script. But she turned her rage and hopelessness into a work that educates, inspires, and heals, a testament to the transformative power of art.”
“Movies like Beans are the reason the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award exists,” said Rogers Vice-Chair, Phil Lind. “At their best, films are an unflinching conversation about who we are, and the events that shaped us. To see the Kanesatake resistance through the eyes of a child is to humanize history.”
The Toronto Film Critics Association’s awards gala returned for a live in-person event after shifting virtually last year during the pandemic. Hosted by ET Canada’s Sangita Patel, the ceremony took place at a gala dinner at The Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto, with a cocktail reception sponsored by Cineplex Entertainment and a dinner sponsored by Netflix. Attendees were required to submit proof of vaccination and pass a COVID antigen test on-site prior to entering the party.
The gala included the presentation of the Company 3 Clyde Gilmour Award to esteemed Canadian director David Cronenberg. The filmmaker received the award on the 25th anniversary of the Toronto Film Critics Association and joked that the membership was awarding him for an eight-year absence. Cronenberg’s next film, Crimes of the Future, will be released later this year. As the winner of the award, Cronenberg gets to select an emerging filmmaker to receive $50,000 in services from Company 3. He will announce his selection shortly.
Cameron Bailey, TIFF CEO, presented Two-Spirited L’nu director Bretten Hannam (Wildhood) with the $10,000 Stella Artois Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist. Hannam made their feature directorial debut with North Mountain (2015). Their acclaimed follow-up feature, Wildhood, about a runaway seeking their Mi’kmaw birth-mother, opens in theatres this week and is nominated for six Canadian Screen Awards.
At the gala, Patel and actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan (Never Have I Ever) introduced video acceptance speeches from Allan King Documentary Award winner Amir “Questlove” Thompson for Summer of Soul and Best Animated Feature winner Jonas Poher Rasmussen for Flee. Thank you videos were also sent in from Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best International Film, Drive My Car), Jane Campion (Best Director, The Power of the Dog), Olivia Colman (Best Actress, The Lost Daughter), and Bradley Cooper (Best Supporting Actor, Licorice Pizza), who sent a video from his shower. Best Actor winner Denzel Washington also sent words of thanks for being recognized for his performance in The Tragedy of Macbeth.
In its mission to recognize new voices in film criticism, the TFCA gave Rachel Ho the third annual TFCA Emerging Critic Award, presented by Canadian comedy legend Rick Mercer. Ho is a practicing lawyer who has pivoted to a new career as a movie reviewer. Ho is a contributor to POV, as well as to Toronto-based outlets Exclaim! and That Shelf.
On the red carpet, entertainment journalist and Super Channel content producer Teri Hart welcomed eminent members of the film industry and the civic and cultural communities, including singer-songwriter Serena Ryder, directors Patricia Rozema, Nick de Pencier and Clement Virgo, Elevation Pictures co-founders and co-presidents Laurie May and Noah Segal, Company 3 VP and GM James Fraser, Cineplex Entertainment President/CEO Ellis Jacob, George Brown College President Dr. Gervan Fearon, and Dori Tunstall, the Dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD University.