Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers made history last night at the Canadian Screen Awards. The multi-talented artist won the Ted Rogers Best Documentary Feature Award for Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy and Best Actress for the drama Night Raiders. Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy, which was POV’s cover story for the Spring/Summer 2021 issue, offers a deeply empathetic portrait of the Kainai nation’s response to the opioid epidemic rippling through the community.
Kímmapiiyipitssini drew wide acclaim upon its premiere at Hot Docs and DOXA last fall for its inclusive and community-based portrait of an epidemic ravaging a community. Critics and audiences noted Tailfeathers’ attentiveness to first responders and harm reduction measures, exploring the systemic factors that contribute to substance abuse in lieu of sensationalism.
“The same sort of imagery was used over and over again, shots captured on a long lens from faraway on boarded up houses that nobody lives in, or of people that were taken without their consent,” Tailfeathers told Kelly Boutsalis previously for POV. “It was really problematic and didn’t represent the community that I know and love.”
Kímmapiiyipitssini won numerous prizes during its festival run, including the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award at Hot Docs in addition to the Audience Award of the Canadian Spectrum during the festival and a special mention for the Rogers Canadian Award for Best Canadian Film. It also scored the Colin Low Award for Canadian Documentary at Vancouver’s DOXA festival, while leading the documentary nominees at the Canadian Screen Awards with three citations. (Prayer for a Lost Mitten and My Tree won the prizes for theatrical doc cinematography and editing, respectively, earlier in the week.)
Scarborough Leads Overall Winners
Tailfeathers won Best Actress for her performance in the dystopian drama Night Raiders. Directed by Danis Goulet, the film observes Tailfeathers’ Niska as she tries to save her daughter from a system with chilling parallels to Canada’s residential schools.
The overall winner at the Canadian Screen Award was Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson’s Scarborough. The drama based on the novel by Catherine Hernandez won eight awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Liam Diaz), Best Supporting Actress (Cherish Violet Blood), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Catherine Hernandez). Scarborough draws upon the duo’s roots in documentary for a powerful slice of realism as it delivers an authentic and complex portrait of the Toronto community, seen through the eyes of the children in a local literacy program, the parents who raise them, and the teachers who gives her all for their future. Hernandez’s book recently wrapped CBC’s Canada Reads contest as a runner-up, and the film was a runner-up in the Toronto Film Critics’ Association’s race for Best Canadian Feature as well as a runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The CSA win capped for a positive run for a film that captured the heart and spirit of a city unlike other films.