With rave reviews across the country, Newfoundland-filmed Maudie opens in St. John's

With rave reviews across the country, Newfoundland-filmed Maudie opens in St. John's

A film with strong ties to Newfoundland and Labrador has been garnering Oscar buzz — and now it's officially open to St. John's audiences.

Maudie, starring Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins, opened Friday at the Scotiabank Theatre in the Avalon Mall.

The movie was partially shot in the St. John's neighbourhood of the Goulds, and focuses on the life of acclaimed Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis and her romance with husband Everett.

Producer Mary Sexton told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show that Maudie was a true "labour of love."

"Sherry (White) wrote it I think 13 years ago — Maudie took 10 years of development to get it to production," she said.

"Mary Young Leckie was one of the producers on it, and was going to produce it in Nova Scotia, but at that time she couldn't find a Nova Scotian to partner with. And where Sherry was a Newfoundlander, I said, 'Give it to me, I'll work with you.' So we partnered up and the rest is history."

A key collaborator was Irish director Aisling Walsh, whose credits include An Inspector Calls, Song For a Raggy Boy and the mini-series Fingersmith. 

"Without Aisling Walsh, this film would never have been made," Sexton said. 

'A young and growing industry' 

Maudie has been receiving rave reviews since hitting screens across the country. It premiered in September at the Toronto International Film Festival and was also featured at the Vancouver International Film Festival's opening gala in the fall.

The movie opened in four Canadian cities April 14: Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

The St. John's debut was ahead of the original schedule.

"They weren't going to open until the 28th — but because of popular demand and people really wanting to see it — they opened it up a week early," said Sexton.

She said this province is in a solid position for the creation and production of movies, docs and shorts.

"The film industry here in Newfoundland … we are very fortunate. We have the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, and we're a young and growing industry," Sexton said.

"We're doing great projects, like Frontier … prior to that we had the series Republic of Doyle. We're doing low-budget features and we're well known for our documentaries. I think we're slowly building up our resumé for a place to come to make unique, entertaining feature films."