TORONTO — Among the nominees for this year's Canadian Screen Awards are some upstart filmmakers who are making waves in this country and beyond.
Of the 10 films up for best picture on Sunday, several are directed by up-and-comers, including Kevan Funk for "Hello Destroyer," Chloe Leriche for "Before the Streets," Matt Johnson for "Operation Avalanche," and Johnny Ma for "Old Stone," which won best Canadian first feature at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"I think you see it in the nominations ... I think you've seen it in what's been programmed at TIFF the last couple of years ... there is a very real movement of this generation of, I think, very interesting, exciting, young Canadian filmmakers — this new infusion of talent," says Funk, who was born in Vancouver and grew up in Banff, Alta.
"That's a really exciting thing to be a part of."
Those filmmakers are up against titles by more established names including Bruce McDonald for "Weirdos," Zacharias Kunuk for "Searchers," and Xavier Dolan for "It's Only the End of the World," which got a leading nine Canadian Screen Award film nominations. The film also won three Cesar Awards — which are often nicknamed the "French Oscars" — including a best director nod for Dolan, the best editing prize, and best actor for Gaspard Ulliel.
The list of best picture nominees is rounded out by Louis Belanger's "Bad Seeds," Stephen Hopkins's "Race," and "Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves" by Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie.
Funk, who also wrote "Hello Destroyer," about a young hockey player's downward spiral after on-ice violence, says the new crop of film talent in this country — which also includes several others who are not nominated for Canadian Screen Awards — is diverse.
"It's not a movement as in a stylistic movement, like mumblecore where there's a cool thing to do in Toronto and everyone is doing that," he says.
"There's a pretty broad diversity of interests, style and scope to all those things."
And yet many of the emerging movie makers are also connected, if not close friends.
"It does feel like we know one another, we're all supporting one another, but at the same time we're sort of spread out all over the country," says Ashley McKenzie, a native of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, who wrote and directed "Werewolf," which is nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards.
"Werewolf," about a homeless couple addicted to methadone, earned McKenzie an emerging artist prize at the Toronto Film Critics Association gala in January. The drama — along with "Weirdos," "Old Stone" and "Hello Destroyer" — were also among Canadian features that recently screened at the Glasgow Film Festival.
"I think we're all really lucky to have arts council funding," says McKenzie. "I think a lot of the features that are doing really well on the festival circuit ... get a lot of support from the Canada Council, from provincial arts councils.
"Compared to if you're in the States, you don't have access to that kind of funding, so that's been really important for us to make low-budget, micro-budget films. (But) I think we all ... are anxious to see what we could do with a bigger budget as well and hopefully we'll get support."
Johnson says the English-speaking Canadian film movement in particular "is getting a lot of traction right now." He pointed to work by another emerging director, Hugh Gibson — who won the best Canadian film award at the TFCA gala for "The Stairs" — as well as Kazik Radwanski, whose film "How Heavy This Hammer" was a runner-up for the prize, along with "Operation Avalanche."
(Radwanski says he didn't submit his film for the Canadian Screen Awards this year because of the cost of the entry fee.)
"I could not express the type of welcome that Kazik created at international film festivals with his first film, 'Tower,'" says Johnson.
"It really paved the way for people like me and other people from my generation to have a market for our movies out there, because people started to talk about Canadian filmmaking, specifically English filmmaking, and that just was not in the conversation 10 years ago."
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press