The TFCA names Werewolf the Best Canadian Film of 2017

January 10, 2018

Werewolf, Ashley McKenzie’s naturalistic examination of a homeless Cape Breton couple struggling with methadone addiction and hard times has won the TFCA’s 2017 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award.

The award, which comes with a $100,000 cheque from Rogers, was presented to the filmmaker by fellow director Don McKellar, whose Last Night was named the TFCA’s Best Canadian Film in 1998.

Hosted by TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey, the ceremony took place at a gala dinner held January 9, 2018 at the historic The Carlu in downtown Toronto.  Also nominated for the award were Kevan Funk for Hello Destroyer and Joyce Wong for Wexford Plaza.

The $100,000 value of the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award makes it the richest annual film prize in Canada.  As runners-up, Funk and Wong each received $5,000 from Rogers Communications.

“Our winning filmmakers brought compassion and insight to subjects of national and global concern, including homelessness, drug addiction and personal redemption,” said TFCA president Peter Howell.

“This was especially true of Werewolf, winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. Ashley McKenzie’s deeply humanistic portrait of two Cape Breton addicts struggling to remain together while escaping their hard reality was all the more impressive considering that just last year, McKenzie was honoured with the TFCA’s Stella Artois Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist.”

“It’s exciting to see this award celebrate a new generation of directors who are changing the landscape of Canadian cinema,” said Phil Lind, Vice Chair, Rogers Communications. “All three finalists are low-budget first features, and two are by women. With Werewolf, a raw, yet tender portrait of a couple in methadone recovery, Ashley McKenzie casts fresh light on a pressing issue.”

The Florida Project star Bria Vinaite was on hand to accept the TFCA’s Best Picture Award for Sean Baker’s drama about homeless children growing up in an Orlando motel and presented by filmmaker Charles Officer (Unarmed Verses). Vinaite also accepted the award for Best Supporting Actor on behalf of The Florida Project’s co-star, Willem Dafoe, who sent a video expressing his thanks.

Canadian actresses Saara Chaudry and Soma Chhaya, who provided the voices for Parvana and Shauzia in The Breadwinner, accepted the film’s award for Best Animated Feature from actress Carolina Bartczak (X-Men: Apocalypse).

Actress Amanda Brugel (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Grace Lynn Kung (Frankie Drake Mysteries) introduced a series of video acceptance speeches from winners, including Greta Gerwig, Best Director winner for Lady BirdLaurie Metcalf, who was awarded Best Supporting Actress for Lady Bird and directorRuben Östlund, whose drama The Square won Best Foreign Language Film. They also read a letter from actor Daniel Day-Lewis, acknowledging his Best Actor Award for Phantom Thread.

As previously announced, Zacharias Kunuk is the winner of the Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award, which was presented at the event by writer and broadcaster Jesse Wente. Under the pay-it-forward terms of the award, Technicolor donated $50,000 in services to a filmmaker of Kunuk’s choosing—Montreal-based Inuk filmmaker and visual artist Isabella Weetaluktuk.

Weetaluktuk, a graduate of NSCAD University in Halifax, premiered her short Three Thousand, her first film with the National Film Board, at the 18th annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in October. She was at the gala to accept her award.

Toronto filmmaker Sofia Bohdanowicz, director of Maison du bonheur and Never Eat Alone, won the Stella Artois Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist, which was presented by Rick Mercer (The Rick Mercer Report)She received a cheque for $5,000 from Labatt Breweries of Canada, while Faces Places co-directors JR and Agnès Varda, winners of the $5,000 Maison Birks Allan King Documentary Award, acknowledged their award in a video response.

Red Carpet hosts, Rogers Media & Entertainment City’s senior reporter Teri Hart and Richard Crouse, host of the CTV talk show Pop Life, welcomed prominent members of the film industry, civic and culture community, including director Hugh Gibson, 2017 winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film for The Stairs; Piers Handling, Toronto International Film Festival Director and CEO; Beth Janson, CEO, Academy of Canadian Cinema and TelevisionMarty Katz, producer, Prospero Pictures and Chair, Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television; Michele Maheux, TIFF Executive Director and COO; Laurie May, Co-President, Elevation Pictures; producer-director Bruce McDonaldAndrew Rosen, producer of The BreadwinnerPatrick Roy, President, eOne Entertainment Canada;Noah Segal, Co-President, Elevation Pictures; Blake Steels, President, Pinewood Toronto Studios; Toronto Mayor John Tory and Zaib Shaikh, City of Toronto Film Commissioner and Director of Entertainment Industries.

The TFCA is extremely grateful to founding sponsor Rogers Communications for the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award, to returning sponsors Labatt’s for the Stella Artois Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist, to Technicolor for the Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award, to Maison Birks for the Maison Birks Allan King Documentary Award and Cineplex Entertainment for the pre-gala reception. The TFCA salutes stalwart supporters Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Shangri-La Hotel Toronto, Moet et Chandon, Zoomer Magazine, The Carlu and TAXI Toronto.

The TFCA Awards gala took place in the historic art deco Round Room at The Carlu. A cocktail reception sponsored by Cineplex preceded the dinner and awards ceremony.

(Under the TFCA’s guidelines, contenders eligible for the awards include films released in Canada in 2017 plus films that qualify for the 2017 Oscars and have Canadian distribution scheduled by the end of February 2018.)