Someone Lives Here | Hot Docs

Someone Lives Here, WaaPaKe Lead VIFF Award Winners

Someone Lives Here named top Canadian doc

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Someone Lives Here and WaaPaKe are among the documentary winners at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). Someone Lives Here won the prize for Best Canadian Feature during the awards ceremony today. Directed by Zach Russell, Someone Lives Here offers a portrait of Toronto’s housing crisis seen through the lens of Khaleel Seivwright, a carpenter who builds mini-shelters to provide the homeless with a roof over their heads. Someone Lives Here receives a $15,000 cash prize sponsored by the Rogers Group of Funds.

The jury noted that Russell, “subtly sidesteps the pitfalls of extractive filmmaking by focusing on two truly unforgettable characters: the formerly unhoused Khaleel, who’s in almost every scene in the film until he suddenly, stunningly isn’t; and the currently unhoused Taka, who asserts her autonomy by refusing to appear on screen at all, instead narrating her own story, as well as the film’s.”  Someone Lives Here previously won the Rogers Audience Award for Canadian film at Hot Docs.

On the home front, Dr. Jules Arita Koostachin won Best B.C. Film for her documentary feature WaaPaKe (Tomorrow). The film receives a $10,000 prize presented by Creative BC and $15,000 in post-production services from Company 3. WaaPaKe sees Koostachin explore the intergenerational trauma inherited by descendants of survivors of Canada’s residential school system. The jury called the film “moving, earnest, cathartic, and self-reflexive,” adding, “Koostachin’s thoughtful and empathetic direction speaks to the power of people telling their own stories without artifice, elaborate staging, or performance.”

Filmmaker Seán Devlin, meanwhile, received honourable mentions for both Best Canadian Documentary and Best B.C. Film for his hybrid feature Asog. The film is a collaborative work in which non-binary participant Jaya recounts their experience as a teacher, whose dreams of becoming a comedian were cut short by a typhoon. The jury praised the Devlin’s “unlikely feat of creating a surreal dreamscape while remaining firmly grounded in the real lives of his protagonists.”


The full list of winners from the 2023 Vancouver International Film Festival is as follows:

Best Canadian Film: Fitting In – Molly McGlynn
Honourable mention: Gamodi – Felix Kalmenson

Emerging Canadian Director: Anna Fahr – Valley of Exile
Honourable mention: Pier-Philippe Chevigny – Richelieu

Best Canadian Documentary: Someone Lives Here – Zachary Russell
Honourable mention: Asog – Seán Devlin

Best BC Film: WaaPaKe– Jules Arita Koostachin
Honourable mention: Asog – Seán Devlin

Best Short Film: Katshinau – Julien G. Marcotte, Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush
Honourable mention: Our Grandmother the Inlet – Jaime Leigh Gianopoulos, Kayah George


VIFF runs through October 8.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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