Swan Song

Swan Song Wins Rogers Best Canadian Documentary from Toronto Film Critics

New award carries a cash prize of $50,000

5 mins read

Swan Song won the inaugural Rogers Best Canadian Documentary award from the Toronto Film Critics Association. Director Chelsea McMullan accepted the award with producer Sean O’Neill at last night’s TFCA Awards gala hosted by Amanda Brugel (Infinity Pool) at the OMNI King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto. The award carried a cash prize of $50,000, courtesy of Rogers, and was presented to McMullan by actor Tantoo Cardinal (Killers of the Flower Moon) and Robin Mirsky from the Rogers Group of Funds.

McMullan and O’Neill thanked the many collaborators who helped them bring to screen the immersive portrait of Karen Kain’s farewell to the ballet. Kain herself attended the gala and presented a clip from Swan Song during the awards dinner. Swan Song premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and was widely acclaimed for its vanity-free portrait of Kain and its fully realized depiction of the corps de ballet that scurried around the stage in her ambitious directorial debut of Swan Lake.

The TFCA’s prize for Canadian documentary was a new addition to this year’s awards after sponsor Rogers split the previous $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film award to share the wealth and create a dedicated spotlight for docs and dramas alike. The winner for Rogers Best Canadian Film was BlackBerry, directed by Matt Johnson. The rambunctious dramedy told the story of the Waterloo startup Research in Motion and the revolution in handheld technology it spurned with a single device.

“In the aftermath of the dual strikes in Hollywood, the TFCA Awards showcase the depth and breadth of films that could only be made by humans,” Johanna Schneller, TFCA President, said in a statement. “It’s an especial honour to call attention to the variety and vibrancy of Canadian film.”

“These winners are the reason the Rogers Best Documentary and Best Canadian Film Award exist,” added Rogers Group of Funds director Robin Mirsky. “Both Swan Song and BlackBerry depict real Canadian events, one as a chronicle and one as a fictionalized drama. In both cases, they capture moments that inspire us, fascinate us, and reflect who we are.”

Runners-up for the Rogers Best Canadian Documentary award were Rojek, directed by Zaynê Akyol, and Someone Lives Here, directed by Zack Russell. Both films received a cash prize of $5,000, courtesy of Rogers, as did dramatic runners-up Solo, directed by Sophie Dupuis, and Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, directed by Ariane Louise-Seize. The latter filmmaker also won the TFCA’s Stella Artois Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist, which was presented by author and Academy Award winning screenwriter John Irving (The Cider House Rules).

The TFCA Awards gala featured an emotional highlight when TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey paid tribute to filmmaker Charles Officer, who posthumously received the Company 3 Luminary Award for his contribution to Canadian film. As part of the award, filmmaker Thyrone Tommy was selected on Officer’s behalf to receive the pay-it-forward prize of $50,000 in post-production services by Company 3. Tommy was introduced by Officer’s longtime producing partner, Jake Yanowski, who made the selection and stated that Officer spoke highly of Tommy’s work before passing last year.

On the documentary front, the TFCA Awards gala included a video acceptance speech from Ukrainian director Mstyslav Chernov, who won the Allan King Documentary Award for the riveting 20 Days in Mariupol. Chernov’s message of using film as a tool for peace was echoed by producer John Wilson, who accepted the TFCA’s Best Picture and Best Director awards for The Zone of Interest on behalf of director Jonathan Glazer.

Other presenters at the TFCA Awards included filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal, actors Jay Baruchel (BlackBerry), Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Kim’s Convenience), Sara Montpetit (Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person), Alice Moreault (Solo), Tamara Podemski (Fancy Dance), and comic Rick Mercer.


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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