Eritrean Nabil Rajo wins Best Actor at Canadian Screen Awards

Canadian Screen Awards honour a wider sense of Canada
In the distribution of the awards, in the substance of the speeches, in the diversity of people standing on the podium: representation mattered at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards.

Accepting his second consecutive award for best actor in a comedy series for Kim’s Convenience, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee articulated the theme in a moving speech. “When you give people a voice, other people start listening,” he said. “And when people start listening, things start to change… when communities see themselves reflected onscreen, it means they’ve moved from the margins into the forefront; it gives them a voice.”

In other repeat victories, Catherine O’Hara won her third consecutive best actress in a comedy series award for Schitt’s Creek, Tatiana Maslany won her fifth best consecutive actress in a drama series for the final season of Orphan Black and The Amazing Race Canada was crowned best reality/competition program or series for the second time, having first won that award in 2015.

The other top TV winners were newcomers: Kim’s Convenience was named best comedy series, Anne won best drama series and Alias Grace took best limited series or program, with Sarah Gadon winning best lead actress in a drama program or limited series.

Billy Campbell won best lead actor in a drama program or limited series for his role in Cardinal, while Alexander Ludwig took best actor in a drama series for Vikings.

Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen – whose Baroness Von Sketch Show was named best sketch comedy program or series earlier in the week – won best performance in sketch comedy, individual or ensemble. And Carmilla’s Elise Bauman was named the winner of this year’s Cogeco Fund Audience Choice Award, a prize won last year by her co-star Natasha Negovanlis. In her acceptance speech, Bauman picked up the thread of diversity and representation: “Seek out and watch projects made by and starring women, people of colour and LGBTQ people,” she said. “Signal boost these projects to your network of friends.”

Hosts Emma Hunter (The Beaverton) and Jonny Harris (Still Standing) kept the evening moving smoothly, avoiding any repeats of Howie Mandel’s hacky bits from last year’s gala. And tribute was paid to Margaret Atwood, actor/director Clark Johnson, Peter Mansbridge and Rick Mercer with special awards.

Accepting the Academy Board Of Directors’ Tribute, Atwood put a spotlight on the After Me Too movement – represented on buttons worn by women and men alike – and Mansbridge, this year’s winner of the lifetime achievement award, used his time at the podium to make a case for the journalistic principle of telling the truth in the face of pressure, disdain and “bullies,” both in Canada and abroad.

Boost star Nabil Rajo won best actor at the Canadian Screen Awards.

On the film side, Aisling Walsh’s East Coast biopic Maudie – a story about marginalized people striving to make themselves seen and heard – was the night’s big winner, taking all seven of its nominated categories: picture, director, original screenplay (for Sherry White), actress and supporting actor prizes (Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, respectively), film editing (Stephen O’Connell) and costume design (Trysha Bakker).

The other film prizes picked up that thread. Relative newcomer Nabil Rajo was named best actor for his role as a young Eritrean immigrant in Darren Curtis’s Boost; Bahar Nouhian won best supporting actress for her performance in Sadaf Foroughi’s Ava, which also won best first feature and Catherine Bainbridge’s Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World dominated the non-fiction category, winning the Ted Rogers best feature documentary award as well as best editing (Benjamin Duffield, Jeremiah Hayes) and best cinematography (Alfonso Maiorana).

The Oscar-nominated animated feature The Breadwinner – a Canadian-Irish co-production about a Muslim girl in Kabul who passes as a boy to earn money for her household– took home four awards, winning for Anita Doron’s adapted screenplay, Mychael and Jeff Danna’s score, Joshua Hill and Qais Essar’s original song The Crown Sleeps and for sound editing.

François Girard’s Hochelaga, Land Of Souls won four prizes, too – art direction (François Séguin), cinematography (Nicolas Bolduc), overall sound (Claude La Haye, Bernard Gariépy-Strobl, Daniel Bisson, Louis-Antoine Lassonde) and visual effects (Alain Lachance, Yann Jouannic, Hugo Léveillé, Nadège Bozzetti, Antonin Messier-Turcotte, Thibault Deloof, Francis Bernard), while fellow Quebecois Érik Gosselin and Marie-France Guy won best make-up for the zombie thriller Les Affamés.

Full disclosure: The Academy Of Canadian Cinema And Televison asked me to host the press room during the ceremony, introducing the winners and moderating questions. If they ask me to do it again next year, I will wear more comfortable shoes.



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