Watermark, a documentary about how humans are shaped by, and shape, the planet’s water supply, won the $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award at the Toronto Film Critics Association dinner on Tuesday night.
The richest annual arts prize in Canada was given to the film’s co-directors Jennifer Baichwal and environmental photographer Edward Burtynsky by CBC host Rick Mercer at a gala dinner at the downtown Carlu, attended by celebrities from Don McKellar to Kim Cattrall and representatives of all the major Toronto-based distributors in the Canadian film industry.
Watermark was chosen in a poll of more than 40 print and broadcast journalists in the TFCA. Runner-up prizes of $5,000, also donated by Rogers Communications Inc., went to Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle and Matt Johnson’s The Dirties. Johnson previously won the $5,000 Scotiabank Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist.
TFCA president and Maclean’s magazine film critic Brian D. Johnson noted that this was the second documentary to take top honours in the two-year history of the prize, following Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell last year. “Canada pioneered the doc genre and Watermark shows we’re still reinventing it,” he said.
The evening also saw video and e-mail acceptance speeches from many previously announced winners, including Joel and Ethan Coen for the best feature, Inside Llewyn Davis; best actor, Oscar Isaac; and best director, Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity).
Joshua Oppenheimer, director of the documentary The Act of Killing, won the $5,000 BMO Allan King Documentary Award, and veteran filmmaker Norman Jewison was honoured with the Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award for a career supporting Canadian film. Technicolor film labs will donate $50,000 in services to a filmmaker of Jewison’s choosing: Jeff Barnaby, a native filmmaker from Quebec who attended the Canadian Film Centre, which Jewison founded. Barnaby made his first feature film, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, this year.
The $5,000 Manulife Financial Best Student Film Award went to Ryerson University students Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg for their short film Noah. The TFCA also gave a $5,000 cheque to filmmaker Mira Burt-Wintonick to establish a newly created TFCA Peter Wintonick Documentary Fund, honouring her father, the filmmaker and producer (Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media) who died in November.