Canadian Screen Awards: ‘Scarborough’ leads awards list
Canadian Screen Awards: ‘Scarborough’ leads awards list
Canadian Screen Awards
By Michelle Chermaine Ramos
The Philippine Reporter
SASHA NAKHAI, Filipina-Canadian filmmaker, is making waves for her production and directing nominations for the film, ‘Scarborough.” Nakhai shares the limelight with other Filipino-Canadians who played different roles in the creation of this movie many consider as relevant to the times.
With co-director Rich Williamson, Nakhai got nominations at the Canadian Screen Awards for Achievement in Direction, Achievement in Casting, and the John Dunning Best Feature Film Award.
“Scarborough” is an indie film based on the best-selling novel of the same title by Filipino-Canadian author Catherine Hernandez. It swept 11 nominations in the prestigious Awards, putting it in the lead of the film category tied with Danis Goulet’s “Night Raiders” which also has 11 nominations.
The film’s other nominations include Best Motion Picture (Shasha Nakhai), Achievement in Cinematography (Rich Williamson), Achievement in Sound Editing (Kyrstin Hunter, Paul Germann, Stefana Fratila), Achievement in Sound Mixing (Eric Taylor, Miles Roberts, Matt Chan), Adapted Screenplay (Catherine Hernandez), Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Liam Diaz), Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Aliya Kanani), and Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Cherish Violet Blood). The film also won the Shawn Mendes Foundation Changemaker Award at TIFF 2021.
The film’s accomplishments are even more significant because it is author Hernandez’ first screenplay. She wrote the book in a time when she said she could not see twenty-four hours ahead let alone her next paycheck. To stay true to the story and to authentically depict the diverse characters and the Scarborough neighborhood the film was shot in without disrupting the community with gigantic film crews, Hernandez collaborated with accomplished documentary filmmakers Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson to give the film a documentary feel.
Nakhai’s passion for storytelling first led her to study journalism during which she wrote a few articles for The Philippine Reporter. Eventually, while taking a TV documentary course in her final year of journalism school, she realized that she preferred longer format storytelling and decided to go into film. Her previous documentaries have been nominated for 5 Canadian Screen Awards, a Golden Sheaf, named TIFF’s Top 10, and a documentary short “Frame 394” even got shortlisted for an Oscar in 2017. Scarborough is her first drama feature.
“I had never seen that type of Philippinex representation, and I just wanted to be part of making that happen. You know, there’s so much truth in the smallest details of Catherine’s writing and that’s what drew me in,” Nakhai said when asked what drew her to this project. “For my partner, Rich, who’s my co-director, he did not grow up in Scarborough, but he grew up in a neighborhood not unlike it called White Oaks in London. And there were a lot of characters that he felt like he knew growing up. And I think there are so many themes and issues that it tackles, but I think ultimately, the umbrella that kind of ties it all together is community.”
The story follows the lives of three children who find friendship attending the same school in a poor neighborhood. The introduction sees 7-year-old Filipino boy, Bing (Liam Diaz) and his mother Edna (Ellie Posadas) escaping from domestic violence. He is chubby, timid, and gay and becomes the target of bullies in school. Fortunately, he has a close relationship with his mother who finds work as a manicurist at a local nail salon with a back alley that serves as a meeting place for prostitutes and their clients. Sylvie (Mekiya Fox) is a tough 8-year-old girl who stands up for Bing when he’s ganged up on in the school bus. She and her First Nations family live in a motel where the residents have formed their own supportive community. Her mother Marie (Cherish Violet Blood) struggles to get a diagnosis and support for her younger brother Johnny (Felix Jedi Ingram Isaac) who displays signs of autism. Their story highlights the system’s prejudice against the First Nations people and their lack of access to resources. Laura (Anna Claire Beitel) is an extremely shy and almost mute 6-year-old Caucasian girl who displays signs of depression. She is bullied in school and things are not much better at home coping with hunger, neglect, and parents who are both abusive with volatile tempers. The children find comfort and a sense of belonging in Ms. Hina’s (Aliya Kanani) breakfast program.
Nakhai said casting was one of the biggest challenges since she and Williamson worked on this project only on evenings and weekends and needed to find not only children who could act, but also parents with whom they could build a good working relationship, and who were available for almost an entire year of filming on weekends.
They started casting in 2018 and filming in 2019. Fortunately, despite the pandemic, they were able to complete filming before the children grew up significantly. As of February 2022, Anna is now 11, Mekiya is 11, and Liam is 13. Having a micro budget production, Nakhai said that one of the struggles was never having enough resources or time. “A lot of us wore so many different hats. You know, our Associate Producer Kenya-Jade would be the driver but also have to go buy emergency ice cream, and then get a legal release, and it was just like we’re all just doing so many things.” Working with children, emergency ice cream runs were one of the ways they created a fun set for them to draw out their best performance.
When asked what she hopes viewers will take away from the movie, Nakhai shared how the pandemic changed their initial goals. “Um, it’s interesting, because in the process of making it, our hopes and takeaways have kind of changed. What initially drew me in was representation and just like for little beings to see themselves and feel affirmed in who they are and become confident in who they are. And now that you know, we’re in the pandemic, I think the core messaging that we hope people take away is the message of community and how important it is to protect community and to nurture it. And also to make sure that people like caregivers, educators, frontline workers have the resources and support that they need, because those people really are the ones that hold the community together.”
Scarborough opens in select theatres Friday February 25th, 2022