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Sarah Polley with her Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Women Talking, at the Dolby Theatre, in Los Angeles, on March 12.NOEL WEST

Perhaps I live exceptionally close to Sarah Polley’s west-end neighbourhood, but I’m pretty sure that I could hear the shouts and screams coming from the Toronto streets Sunday night when the Canadian writer-director of Women Talking won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

“I just want to thank the Academy for not being mortally offended by the words ‘women’ and ‘talking’ so close together like that,” a tuxedo-clad Polley joked on-stage.

Miriam Toews wrote an essential novel about a radical democracy in which people who don’t agree on every single issue managed to sit together in a room and carve out a way forward together free of violence. They do so not just by talking but also by listening. The last line of our film is delivered by a young woman to a baby, saying, ‘Your story will be different than ours.’ It’s a promise, a commitment and an anchor, and it’s what I would like to say with all of my might to my three incredible kids Eve, Isla and Amy as they make their way through this complicated, beautiful world.”

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A different kind of promise and commitment should now quickly ripple throughout the Canadian film community, as Polley’s Oscars triumph – coupled with a number of high-profile wins from other Canadians – serves as a reminder to this country’s deeply talented pool of cinematic artists just what can be achieved when the stars (both of the metaphorical and Frances McDormand variety) align.

Was Sunday’s Canada-led invasion of the 95th Oscars this country’s biggest moment in the Academy Awards spotlight since 2004, when Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions won Best Foreign Language Film? Or maybe it was 2000, when the South Park movie was up for the original song Blame Canada? As with everything involving the up-and-down world of Canadian film, it is tricky to calculate.

Already, every Canadian arts institution, funding agency and politician worth their social-media followings has issued hearty congratulations to not only Polley, but also Toronto’s Daniel Roher (director of Best Documentary winner Navalny) and Montreal’s Adrien Morot (who won in the Best Hair and Makeup category for his work on The Whale). We can also, I guess, include dual citizen Brendan Fraser here, too, thanks to his Best Actor win for The Whale. See, the sentiment goes, this is what happens when you support Canadian talent. Oscars glory! Now and forever!

And no one is exactly wrong. The homegrown artists who were showered with Oscars love Sunday started their careers here, and in the case of Polley made exceptional commitments to working here, too. Women Talking not only co-stars a handful of Canadians (including legitimate national treasure Sheila McCarthy, who was captured by ABC’s cameras last night giving a standing ovation to Polley inside L.A.’s Dolby Theatre), but was filmed here, too, providing all manner of opportunities to this country’s cinematic-crafts labour force.

Surely, the simple fact of watching Polley stand on-stage to hoots and hollers will inspire a profound sense of pride and imagination among this country’s struggling young artists, a feeling that any dream – even one hatched in the small-scale environs of Canada’s screen sector – can go the distance. But there is that nagging Canadian catch, too, given that every one of our homegrown talents who was honoured Sunday night only got to the Oscars stage thanks to the bank accounts of American producers.

Women Talking was produced by Plan B and Frances McDormand’s Hear/Say Productions. Navalny was made by CNN Films, HBO Max and a handful of other U.S. production companies. And The Whale arrived courtesy of the deep-pocketed folks at American cool-kid indie company A24.

So as much as the Oscars should, and will, inspire our own storytellers – likely for generations to come – it would benefit everyone (the artists, audiences, gatekeepers and funders) to also think long and hard about why everyone had to find connections outside of Canada to represent Canada on the Academy’s stage.

For the health of this country’s screens sector, Canadian films should only be considered truly Canadian when they are funded by companies that are based here, run by people who have the incentive to keep working within, and pumping more money into, the domestic infrastructure. But when that same system also cannot offer artists like Polley and Roher and Morot the resources and opportunities to fully realize their visions, then all of this country’s institutions and funders and cheerleaders should also pause for a moment of cold, hard reflection.

Certainly, Bill C-11 is one attempt to partially help the situation, but it has also been managed in such a ham-fisted fashion, with too many unforced errors on the behalf of the Liberal government to count, that it is far from the cure-all the industry once imagined it might be.

If we want our best and brightest filmmakers to keep triumphing, to keep inspiring, then we need to work harder to keep giving them what they need and deserve, too. Saying congratulations is easy. Developing, supporting and constantly pushing forward a truly viable Canadian film industry is far more difficult. Make it a promise, make it a commitment.

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