A Grand Gesture of Canadian Comradeship

January 13, 2017

The TFCA’s $100,000 cash prize given to Hugh Gibson will be split three ways.

 On Tuesday, January 10th, 2017, filmmaker Hugh Gibson received the TFCA’s 2016 Rogers Best Canadian Film award at the annual TFCA Awards Gala for his documentary The Stairs. Gibson was nominated for the award alongside fellow Toronto-based filmmakers Kazik Radwanski (How Heavy This Hammer) and Matt Johnson for Operation Avalanche, both their second features. As all three nominees are friends, as well as peers, Hugh made the decision to split the prize money as a group.

From Left: Hugh Gibson, Kaz Radwanski, and Matt Johnson.

“The TFCA chose to recognize three young independent directors,” said Gibson. “In the case of myself and Kaz, the prize money exceeds our films’ entire budgets. Each of us could have won, and it was an easy decision to split the money: even divided, the prize guaranteed windfalls for everyone.”

“Kaz and Matt have become integral parts of Toronto’s film scene,” continued Gibson. “With this gesture, we send a message of mutual respect and prosperity. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

“It’s because of filmmakers like Hugh and Kaz that I will never leave Toronto,” said Johnson. “It’s the most vital place on the planet for young people to be making movies, and that’s especially based on the community of critics and creators that have popped up in the last 5 years.”

“We’ve all made films with nothing,” said Radwanski. “We know how empowering this amount of money can be when given to directly to filmmakers. All I want is for Matt and Hugh to continuing making incredible films without compromise.”

“I am knocked out by this wonderful news. All 3 nominees are not only gifted filmmakers, but also generous souls,” said TFCA president Peter Howell. “This is a grand gesture of comradeship that speaks to the close-knit Canadian film community that exists today.”

The Stairs, Hugh Gibson’s feature debut, tells the turbulent story of three social workers over 5 years in Toronto’s Regent Park. Outgoing TFCA President Brian D. Johnson called it “a stunning feat of vérité filmmaking—an intimate character study that illuminates issues of addiction with an empathetic, non-judgmental eye—and pulls poetry out of despair.” The Stairs initially came from creating short films with public health agencies and their clients. Over the last ten years, he has worked extensively for non-profits and in particular with marginalized communities.

This past fall, Matt Johnson’s production company Zapruder Films initiated the Women First Screenwriting Program. Created to shift the imbalance in gender inequality, Zapruder donated its Telefilm development money to award $12,000, plus the services of a professional story editor, to a Canadian female filmmaker. The first recipient was Chandler Levack. At the time, Johnson said he “hopes the program benefits more than just the winner. The idea is to inspire other people in the film industry to take action, too. If they see a problem with the way things are, they have the power to change things.”

Kazik Radwanski has long been impacting Toronto’s film community through his company, MDFF. With producing partner Dan Montgomery, MDFF recently produced Andrea Bussmann and Nico Pereda’s highly acclaimed Tales of Two Who Dreamt. Since 2012, the ‘MDFF Presents’ screening series has been a vital source for film lovers to discover the best in local and international independent cinema which might not screen in Toronto otherwise.