A psychological thriller about a recent immigrant from Nigeria caught up in a police investigation has captured a major award at the Whistler Film Festival.
Cinema of Sleep, directed by Jeffrey St. Jules, won the Borsos competition for best Canadian feature. Dayo Ade, who plays the central character who finds a woman (played by Getenesh Berhe) dead in his bed, earned the Borsos award for best performance. Behre won honourable mention in this category.
"Driven by powerful performances, this film uses the language of film noir to explore one of the most compelling issues of our times in an inventive, weirdly entertaining, and entirely surprising way," the jury stated.
Dayo's performance was described as "nuanced, subtle, powerful, and flawless".
"He exemplifies the soul of an artist and embodies the life of the character in a way that is unforgettable.”
The award is named after Canadian film director Phillip Borsos (The Grey Fox, Bethune: The Making of a Hero, The Mean Season) and was presented by the B.C. branch of the Directors Guild of Canada in association with Telefilm Canada.
The Borsos award for best Canadian feature comes with a $15,000 cash price from the DGC and a $20,000 post-production prize from Company 3.
The award for best direction in a Borsos competition film award went to Luc Picard for Confessions of a Hitman. Picard, a veteran actor, also played Gerald Gallant, who was a real-life hitman for Quebec bike gangs.
According to the jury, Picard "masterfully retells the story of the biker wars in Quebec, and in doing so reveals the atypical personality of a hitman".
Carmen, which is set in Malta, won best cinematography in a Borsos competition film. Diego Guijarro was responsible for the gorgeous imagery in the movie, which stars Natascha McElhone as a 50-year-old woman who's broken free of the shackles of the church.
"His work in Carmen is breathtaking, even magical, and draws in the viewer from the first frame," the jury concluded. "As he paints with light, he guides our imaginations through the things we see and masterfully keeps us mindful of the things that we don’t.”
The Borsos competition jury members were veteran Canadian director Sturla Gunnarsson, Dune executive producer and The Paper Man director Tanya Lapointe, The Cuban director Sergio Navarretta, and Conquering Lion Pictures partner Damon D'Oliveira.
The winner for the best screenplay for a Borsos competition film was Sarah Fortin for Nouveau Quebec. She also directed the movie, which takes place in the Quebec town of Schefferville after its mines were closed by the Iron Ore Company of Canada. A woman and her boyfriend are forced to remain in the town as police investigate an accident involving an old miner, which the woman witnessed.
“Sarah Fortin’s skillful screenplay for Nouveau Quebec delicately observes the disintegration of two lovers taken out of their comfort zone, against the atmospheric backdrop of a nearly extinct Canadian mining town grappling with complex, Indigenous realities," the jury stated.
In addition, Nouveau Quebec was chosen as the best female-directed feature at the Whistler Film Festival by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists for its "couple-in-crisis drama wrapped in a mystery".
The alliance presented the best female-directed narrative documentary award to $avvy, which is Robin Hauser's film highlighting how important and how fun it can be for women to learn about financial literacy. And the alliance's best female-directed short film was for the mother-daughter relationship film "Fanmi", directed by Carmine Pierre-Dufour and Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosier.
The World Documentary Award at the Whistler Film Festival went to Poly Styrene: I am a Cliche, which was directed by Celeste Bell and Paul Sng. The jury for this award included playwright, author, and filmmaker Cheryl Foggo; Fireworks Media Group president Robert Hardy; and Sienna Films/Sphere Media producer Laura Perlmutter.
The best B.C. director award, which was presented by the B.C. branch of the Directors Guild of Canada, went to Cassie De Colling for Precious Leader Woman. It tells the story of how Winter X Games Indigenous snowboarding star Spencer O'Brien reconnected with her Kwakwaka'wakw culture following her disappointing performance at the Sochi Olympics.
"Cassie spoke to the power we have within ourselves to grow and to find a deeper meaning for our existence and one where we can be role models to others, regardless of culture," the jury stated. "Spencer O’Brien’s journey to becoming one of the best snowboarders in the world, paralleling her journey to becoming the namesake Precious Leader Woman, was so rich, moving and compelling."
Precious Leader Woman also snagged an honourable mention in the competition for best mountain culture film award, which went to Buried. The jury described this movie, directed by Jared Drake and Steven Siig, as "a truly stunning piece that takes a hard look at our relationship to mountains, to loss that endures, and the risks we take in mountain places. It is a masterful cinematic journey into a world of grief, trauma and hope.”
The mountain-culture jury members were filmmaker and cinematographer Brian Hockenstein, Transmission Media storyteller Caroline Hedin, and Yap Sisters studio producer and designer Carrie Yap.
The $1,000 Canadian shortwork award went to Zacharias Kunuk's “Angakusajaujuq - The Shaman’s Apprentice”, with honourable mention to Omolola Rachel Ajao's "Fufu", in which an immigrant daughter recalls her mother's life.
"Isole Ciclope", directed by Ryan De Franco and Matthew Mendelson, won the international shortwork award for its exploration of dementia. Honourable mention in this category went to Jerry Carlsson's "Successful Thawing of Mr. Moro".
The $500 B.C. student shortwork price went to Ashley Yeung for "A Family Act", which portrays a young woman coming to terms with her identity as a second-generation Chinese Canadian following the death of a distant relative.
In total, the Whistler Film Festival handed out $74,500 in cash and production prizes. That included a $36,000 prize package to Christina Saliba, winner of the WFF Power Pitch Competition, for her White Noise project. Saliba took home a $25,000 post-production credit from Company 3, and a $1,000 cash prize and $10,000 lighting and grip production credit from William F. White International.