Indigenous coming of age drama ‘Beans’ wins $100,000 Toronto film critics prize

TORONTO — The coming-of-age drama “Beans” has won the $100,000 best Canadian feature prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Director Tracey Deer was named the winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award at a glitzy dinner gala Monday night, where the film’s co-writer and executive producer Meredith Vuchnich accepted on her behalf.

Previous winners and directors Jennifer Baichwal and Sarah Polley presented the award at an indoor event that restored many of the celebratory conventions of yore.

Filmmaker David Cronenberg, director Don McKellar, “Never Have I Ever” star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Toronto International Film Festival CEO Cameron Bailey were among the luminaries to gather for the bash.

Guests were tested for COVID-19 in advance and were required to wear masks when not eating or drinking.

Pandemic precautions forced the previous edition online, but Bailey said he was “thrilled” to reunite with other film professionals.

“I’m seeing friends, I’m seeing colleagues. This is an important thing for us to do,” Bailey said on the red carpet.

“Everybody’s off working in isolation, especially over the last two years, and it’s important to remember that we’re not in this alone, that we have a community and that we tell stories that resonate with people.”

“Beans” centres on a 12-year-old Mohawk girl coming of age during the 1990 Oka Crisis.

Before the award ceremony, Vuchnich recounted the film’s acclaimed ride since it was selected for the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.

“The whole time we’ve been on this journey with ‘Beans,’ doors have opened for this film that I have never seen open for other films in my career,” she said.

“I think it’s because Canadians are ready to hear this story. But this film would not exist without Tracey Deer. This is such a personal film for her and we were lucky to help her tell it. I’m proud of her.”

The runners-up “Night Raiders,” directed by Danis Goulet, and “Scarborough,” directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson, each received $5,000.

Cronenberg was on hand as the winner of the previously announced Clyde Gilmour Award, which recognizes a Canadian figure in the film industry who has made a significant contribution to Canadian cinema.

It allows the writer/director to bestow $50,000 in production services to a fellow filmmaker of his choice. His pick is still to be announced.

Bailey presented two-spirit L’nu director Bretten Hannam with the $10,000 Stella Artois Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist, announced previously. Hannam wrote and directed “Wildhood,” which was recently nominated for six Canadian Screen Awards.

Last month, the TFCA also awarded Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car” with best picture, best international film and best screenplay.

Other previously announced TFCA winners include Olivia Colman for best actress for her performance in “The Lost Daughter,” which also won best supporting actress for Jessie Buckley and best first feature for writer and director Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Denzel Washington won best actor for playing the title role in Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” while Bradley Cooper was named best supporting actor for his work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.”

Other wins included Jane Campion as best director for “The Power of the Dog,” “Flee” for best animated feature, while the Allan King Documentary Film Award went to “Summer of Soul.”

Comic Rick Mercer presented freelance film critic Rachel Ho with the emerging critic award.

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