Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley’s acclaimed family memoir, was awarded Canada’s richest film prize on Tuesday evening at the Toronto Film Critics Association 16th annual awards gala. The documentary prevailed over two other finalists, Michael Dowse’s hockey comedy, Goon, and Bestiaire, a documentary by Denis Côté on captive animals, to take the $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. The runners-up each received $5,000.
It’s the second time that Polley has been given best Canadian film honours by the TFCA, whose roster includes more than 40 critics and film journalists: She won for her first feature, 2006’s Away from Her, starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie. Stories We Tell also received the TFCA’s Allan King Documentary Award for best documentary. Adding to the joy of the occasion was the fact that Jan. 8 was the 34th birthday of the Toronto-born actor/director/writer.
Previously, the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award was worth $15,000, but late last November the telecommunications giant announced that it was increasing the winner’s purse to $100,000. Finalists were named on Dec. 18. Rogers has been sponsoring the annual prize since 2008; earlier winners were My Winnipeg, Polytechnique, Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar.
Other honorees on Tuesday were Ryerson University’s Andrew Moir, awarded the $5,000 Manulife Financial Best Student Film Award for his short documentary on Lou Gehrig’s disease, Just As I Remember, and York University film graduate Nicolás Pereda, named the recipient of the TFCA Jay Scott Prize for talented emerging artist. The prize, named after the late Globe and Mail film critic (1949-1993), consists of a $5,000 cash award and $5,000 in post-production services.
Last month, the TFCA, founded in 1997, named Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master the best film of 2012. Anderson also was named best director and best screenwriter while the film’s co-lead actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, earned best supporting actor honours. Other winners announced earlier: ParaNorman (best animated film), Beasts of the Southern Wild and Beyond the BlackRainbow (tied as best debut feature), Denis Lavant (best actor, Holy Motors), Rachel Weisz (best actress, The Deep Blue Sea) and Gina Gershon (best supporting actress, Killer Joe).