Cinema of Sleep wins best Canadian feature at Whistler Film Festival

The psychological thriller, written and directed by Jeffrey St. Jules, and Sarah Fortin's Nouveau Quebec each picked up two prizes at the festival.

Jeffrey St. Jules’ psychological thriller Cinema of Sleep (pictured) won big at the 21st Whistler Film Festival (WFF), earning the Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature.

The 2021 film festival announced its annual awards on Sunday (Dec. 19), with the exception of the audience award, which will be announced on Dec. 28. WFF’s in-person event ran from Dec. 1 to 5 in Whistler, B.C., while virtual screenings are available until Dec. 31.

Cinema of Sleep, written and directed by St. Jules and produced by Winnipeg’s Inferno Pictures, earned two prizes total, including Best Performance in a Borsos Competition Film for Dayo Ade. Co-star Getenesh Berhe earned an honourable mention.

The Borsos Award for Best Canadian Feature comes with a $15,000 cash prize, presented by the Directors Guild of Canada, as well as $20,000 in post-production services, presented by Company 3. The festival’s award prizes total a value of $74,500.

Cinema of Sleep is the sophomore feature from St. Jules, who brought his first feature Bang Bang Baby to WFF in 2014, and follows a recent Nigerian immigrant to the U.S. whose good deed goes terribly awry.

Sarah Fortin’s Nouveau Quebec (Voyelles Films) also earned two prizes at the festival, with Fortin picking up Best Screenplay of a Borsos Competition Film and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) EDA Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature Award. Nouveau Quebec, about a couple who heads to a remote mining community in northern Quebec, had its English Canada premiere at WFF.

Best Director of a Borsos Competition Film went to Luc Picard for Confessions of a Hitman (Christal Films), which had its world premiere at the festival. Written by Sylvain Guy, the film tells the true story of an assassin working for biker gangs in Quebec.

The Best BC Director Award went to Cassie De Colling for the documentary feature Precious Leader Woman (Kiddo), which is written by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and X Games gold medalist Spencer O’Brien, about O’Brien’s personal struggles with rheumatoid arthritis and her recovery in her hometown in traditional territory of Kwakwaka’wakw.

Another WFF world premiere, Canada/Malta copro Carmen (Falkun Films, Aiken Heart Films), won Best Cinematography in a Borsos Competition Film. Diego Guijarro was the cinematographer for the film, which was written and directed by Valerie Buhagiar and follows a 50-year-old woman who looks for love after a lifetime of serving the church, and ends up hearing confessions at the local church.

Zacharias Kunuk’s Angakusajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice won the Canadian ShortWork Award. The short film, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, previously picked up prizes at TIFF and the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and is eligible to be nominated in the 94th Academy Awards.

The AWFJ EDA Best Female-Directed Short Film Award went to Canadian short Fanmi, directed by Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers and Carmine Pierre-Dufour, while the BC Student ShortWork Award went to A Family Act, directed by Ashley Yeung.

International winners at the festival include U.K. documentary Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, directed by Celeste Bell and Paul Sng, which won the World Documentary Award; U.S. film Buried, directed by Jared Drake and Steven Siig, won Best Mountain Culture Film (with Precious Leader Woman earning an honourable mention); U.S. feature $avvy, directed by Robin Hauser, won the AWFJ EDA Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature Award; and Italy/U.S. short film Isole Ciclopi, directed by Ryan De Franco and Matthew Mendelson, won the International ShortWork Award.

The Borsos Competition jury included director Sturla Gunnarsson, producer and director Tanya Lapointe, director Sergio Navarretta and producer Damon D’Oliveira.