The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open wins Toronto critics prize


The Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA) has named The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open the winner of the Rogers Best Canadian Film award.

Co-directors Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn – named two of NOW’s rising screen stars last spring – were on hand to accept the honour at the organization’s gala at the King Edward Hotel Thursday night (January 9). Author Margaret Atwood, who allowed that she had once written a film review, announced the award, which comes with a $100,000 cash prize. (Full disclosure: I am an active member of the TFCA, as are NOW critics Glenn Sumi, Kevin Ritchie, Radheyan Simonpillai and Susan G. Cole.)

The Vancouver-set drama, about two Indigenous women who spend a contentious hour and a half together, was up for the award – the largest annual film prize in Canada – with Jasmin Mozaffari’s Firecrackers and Sophie Deraspe’s Antigone. The runners-up each received $5,000.

“It means so much that Canadians care about this story,” said Tailfeathers, who co-wrote the film with Hepburn, and stars in it opposite Violet Nelson. “Thank you for supporting our film, and getting audiences to support this story.”

“We hope this film reminds you that as a country, we are not yet healed from the fractured past,” added Hepburn, noting that Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

The evening had started on a similarly thoughtful note, with returning host (and TIFF artistic director) Cameron Bailey calling for a moment of silence to consider the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 crash, most of whom were en route to Toronto. Bailey asked the assembled critics, actors, filmmakers and corporate patrons to think about who might tell the stories of the dead, and what stories they might have told for themselves.

And then, quite gracefully, Bailey pivoted back to the function of awards host, introducing a string of celebrity presenters, among them Handmaid’s Tale star Amanda Brugel, actors Sarah Gadon and Kaniehtiio Horn, writer/director Don McKellar, broadcaster Traci Melchor and comic Rick Mercer.

Actor and filmmaker Deragh Campbell accepted the Stella Artois Jay Scott prize for an emerging artist (and its $10,000 cash prize) by thanking her regular collaborator Sofia Bohdanowicz, with whom she’s made several shorts and features – most recently the drama MS Slavic 7, on which they shared writing, directing and editing credits. And Victor Stiff, winner of this year’s RBC Emerging Critic Award, happily announced to his editors that his freelance rates had just doubled.

Accepting Missing Link’s award for best animated feature, director Chris Butler apologized for his lack of a decent winter coat, explaining he’d just been in Los Angeles for the Golden Globes. American Factory co-producer Yiqian Zhang accepted the Allan King Documentary Award on behalf of directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.

Adam Driver (best actor, Marriage Story) and Bong Joon-ho (whose Parasite won best picture, best foreign-language film and best director) sent video acceptances. Steven Zaillian (best screenplay, The Irishman) sent a note in which he reminisced about shooting his directorial debut, Searching For Bobby Fischer, in Toronto in 1992. And Olivia Wilde (best first feature, Booksmart) sent her regards as well: “I love you, Toronto. Always have, always will.”

Outgoing TIFF COO Michèle Maheux, accepting this year’s Technicolor Clyde Gilmour award for service to Canadian cinema, named filmmaker (and former TIFF publicist) Lina Rodriguez as the recipient of $50,000 in post-production services for her next feature. Maheux, who joined TIFF as a publicist herself before rising through the organization, offered some career advice to the room.

“Be brave, and prepare to take the path not intended,” she said. “And hire people that are smarter than you. When someone says an applicant is overqualified, that just means the boss is insecure.”