Down River was named this year’s Best Motion Picture at the Leo Awards on Sunday (June 1). It was a satisfying win for writer-director Ben Ratner’s aggressively local feature, which is about Vancouver as much as anything else, bookending a gala celebration that started with awards president Walter Daroshin reminding everyone at the ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver that “a year ago we were all putting bumper stickers on our cars trying to Save B.C. Film.”
A little later in the ceremony, awards producer Sonny Wong brought a smidge more reality to the room when he described the “high hopes and low expectations” that characterise the same business, but at least everyone was pickled by then. The 16th annual celebration of local film and TV was as long and drunk as ever, and just as chaotic. Standing alongside his co-host Zak Santiago and Pascale Hutton, actor Christopher Heyerdahl began proceedings by announcing that ”our theme tonight is technical difficulties. We hope you enjoy our feedback.”
For the most part, we did. Some highlights? Jennifer Spence exclaiming, “Holy shee-it, I thought Colleen [Rennison] was gonna get this,” when she picked up her Best Supporting Performance trophy, also for Down River. Receiving the equivalent award in the male category, for his role in The Call, Michael Eklund made everyone gooey when he thanked his “number one pal—my mom.” As did Swo-Wo Gabriel, who paid tribute to his mother as he picked up the prize for Best Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series (Blackstone, “Reap What You Sow.”)
On a much lighter tip, those of us who heard it got a good snicker out of actor-presenter Nicholas Carella’s under-the-breath mention of “Adele Dazeem,” and Beverley Elliott brought the house down with a a musical number called “This Actor is for Hire.” Best line? “I started out on Danger Bay, I’m older than Mackenzie Gray…”
Beyond all that, seeing Helen Shaver, period, was an almighty thrill.
There were no real sweeps. Down River received two awards. Continuum was honored for Lexa Doig’s supporting role in “Split Second”, along with Kimani Ray Smith’s stunt work in “Second Time”. It was also named Best Dramatic Series.
Including Best Television Movie, Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story took four prizes—one each for Michael Shanks and Kathleen Robertson in lead performance categories, and another for Dylan Playfair in his supporting role.
Marshall Axani’s wild short, “Anxious Oswald Greene” was given three awards, for Best Short Drama, Best Direction, and Best Lead Performance by a Male (for Ryan Beil, whose prize was accepted by the equally wild sexagenarian twin sisters, Joyce and Jackie Robbins.)
The full list of winners, including those who took home trophies from Friday and Saturday's celebrations, is here.