Canada will be well-represented at the Academy awards this Sunday, February 24th. Despite the lack of an official entry in the foreign language category, Canadians are once again at the core of some of the best work produced in 2016. The most high profile Canadian nominees are Denis Villeneuve who is nominated for Best Director for Arrival, which is also nominated for Best Picture, and Ryan Gosling who is favoured to win Best Actor for his performance in La La Land. This week the Canadian Academy will be shedding light on some of our other talented but perhaps lesser-known nominees. Follow the whole series at #CanadaAtTheOscars.
Arrival was funded and released by a major American studio, but as with many films, it was shot in Quebec, and Denis was able to work with some of his long-time collaborators, many of whom are also nominated for the film. As a result, this is the first time that so many Québécois artists are nominated for the Oscars in the same year. Those who helped to create this remarkable and haunting film and who have been recognized with nominations include Sylvaine Bellmare (Sound Editing), Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye (Sound Mixing), Patrice Vermette (Production Design), Paul Hotte (Set Decoration). Arrival is co-produced by Shawn Levy, a director and producer originally from Montreal who has either directed or produced some of the biggest films and series’ of the last decade, including the Night at the Museum franchise and the Netflix blockbuster Stranger Things, amongst many others.
Another Best Picture nominee with Canadian ties is Fences, directed by and starring Denzel Washington. The film is executive produced by Aaron L. Gilbert, founder of Bron Studios in Vancouver, a company that is only six years old, but has quickly made a name for itself backing films that are culturally compelling, including many directed by women and filmmakers of colour.
In the feature documentary realm, Canadian Howard Barish is nominated for his role as a producer on 13th directed by Ava DuVernay. 13th is unquestionably one of the year’s, perhaps the decades, most important documentary films, one that Johanna Schneller called a “calm, articulate, well-reasoned wail of anguish”.
Three of the five nominees for Best short (Animated) are Canadian. While Canada is an established global leader in animation, this is an especially impressive feat in a year when a record number of films were submitted for the category. Theodore Ushev is the Montreal- based artist behind Blind Vaysha which was animated through the meticulous use of centuries-old linocut block printing techniques. The premise of the film, which can be viewed at NFB.ca is that of a girl with one eye that can only see the past, and one that can only see the future.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes is a biographical short from the Vancouver-based animator Robert Valley, a graphic artist has worked as a character designer on TRON, and the Wonder Woman series, a storyboard artist on the Aeon Flux TV series and on music videos for Gorillaz. Funded through two Kickstarter campaigns, the short is based on Valley’s graphic novels and was animated in Photoshop – something very unusual in the animation community.
Piper is the directorial debut of longtime Pixar animator Alan Barillaro. If you saw Finding Dory, Piper is the six-minute short that played before the film. The film is a true labour of love having taken six years to bring to life. The work animating the feathers on the birds in this short has pushed the medium forward.