‘Blackbird’ flies at Vancouver

Buxton's revenge tale wins best Canadian feature


The Vancouver Film Festival wrapped its 16-day run on Friday on a particularly surrealist note with a gala presentation of Leos Carax’s fantasy “Holy Motors,” after handing out its award for best Canadian feature, and a $10,000 prize, to Jason Buxton for “Blackbird.”

The film stars “Falling Skies’ ” Connor Jessup who gives an understated performance as a teenager whose story of revenge earns him the wrath of a small community, the nickname “Columbine” and a trip through the juvenile correctional system, transforming his life. Honorable mention went to Jesse James Miller’s “Becoming Redwood,” which also won the audience award for Most Popular Canadian Film.

“Falling Skies” was chosen by the Canadian Images jury, which included Vancouver actor Jay Brazeau, “Nuit #1” filmmaker Anne Emond and Columbian-American media personality Claudia Mendoza-Carruth.

The majority of Vancouver’s awards are selected by the audience, with the top People’s Choice Award going to Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” about a kindergarten teacher falsely accused of child abuse.

Nimisha Mukerji, who previously won for “65_RedRoses” took home the most popular Canadian documentary award for “Blood Relative.” The international doc honor went to Patrick Farrelly and Kate O’Callaghan’s “Nuala,” a look at the life of the late Irish journalist Nuala O’Faolain.

“Revolution,” Rob Stewart’s follow up to “Sharkwater,” won for environmental film.

Barnaby Southcombe’s “I, Anna,” nabbed the auds’ international first feature award.

Another audience favorite, “Liverpool,” received the Women in Film and Television Artistic Merit award, which went to writer-director Manon Briand.

The previously announced $5,000 Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema went to director Li Luo of China for “Emperor Visits the Hell” (Tang huang you difu). The jury had considered eight films in competition.

Just as the fest winds down, it has been announced that one of its primary screening hubs, the Granville 7 cinema, is to shutter. This is just the latest in a string of indie cinema closures in Vancouver.

This leaves the fest in a precarious position for next year, although artistic director Alan Franey insists that this does not mean the end of the fest — just a challenge. Next year, screenings will have to be spread wider across the city.

Mayor Gregor Robertson was present at the closing gala and confirmed his support for fest and the local film industry, saying, “As long as I’m mayor, we’ll be strong on that front.”

He had just returned from Los Angeles where he met with studio execs.

According to Franey, this has been a particularly strong year for the fest with over 20,000 ballots cast rating movies as good or excellent.

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