Sarah Polley doc wins Toronto critics' best Canadian film prize
Actor-director Sarah Polley poses in Toronto on June 14, 2012. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013 8:12AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 9, 2013 9:01AM EST
TORONTO -- Sarah Polley's deeply personal documentary "Stories We Tell" has nabbed a $100,000 film prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association, capping a remarkable year she called "the best in her life."
The acclaimed actress-turned-director was presented with the 2012 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award at a gala dinner Tuesday -- her birthday.
The prize included a round of "Happy Birthday" when gala host Cameron Bailey urged a hearty serenade from the crowd of media and film personalities including Rick Mercer, Don McKellar, Emily Hampshire and Bruce McDonald.
"It's really happening?" Polley asked nervously from the stage.
"It's really happening," Bailey, co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival, said as the crowd bellowed.
Moments earlier, Polley had just accepted the Allan King Documentary Award, the first of two accolades from Toronto critics for her debut documentary feature.
"I just want to say that this is a beautiful end to the best year of my life, so thank you," said Polley, who gave birth to her first child last year.
Later, McKellar invited her to return to the stage to claim Canada's richest arts prize announcing: "The best year of your life isn't over yet!"
"Christmas next year just got a whole lot more complicated," Polley said to chuckles before recounting her film's sometimes painful journey to the big screen.
"It felt like a disaster most of the time. The last thing I would have expected is this kind of recognition and I have to say that it feels incredible to have this kind of affirmation after years of feeling so lost and like I was doing the wrong thing."
Polley's intensely personal film traces her recent discovery that the man she believed was her father was actually not her biological parent.
The memoir beat out competition from the animal documentary "Bestiaire," directed by Denis Cote, and the hockey comedy "Goon," directed by Michael Dowse.
As runners-up, Cote and Dowse each received $5,000.
This marks the second time the TFCA has honoured Polley for best Canadian film. She also won for her first feature, the 2006 love story "Away From Her," back when the award carried no cash prize.
In accepting the documentary honour, Polley credited King with inspiring her to make a non-fiction feature in the first place, noting that he actually advised her in the early stages of making "Stories We Tell."
She reserved her deepest gratitude for her late mother, Diane, whose double life is explored in the film, and her father Michael, who narrates the tale throughout.
Polley also gave thanks to several journalists who kept her family secret out of the press for years at her request, noting that without their co-operation she never would have been able to make the film.
"I'd like to dedicate this award to the incredible integrity of this community, this must be the last country on earth where journalists keep things to themselves out of basic human decency," she said.
"It made this film possible and it made me a much less cynical person, so thank you."
Other prizes handed out Tuesday included the Manulife Financial best student film award, which went to Ryerson University student Andrew Moir for his short documentary "Just As I Remember."
It carries a cash prize of $5,000.
And the Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist went to Toronto filmmaker NicolDas Pereda, whose films include 2012's "Greatest Hits."
Sponsored by Deluxe, the prize comes with $5,000 cash and $5,000 in post-production services.
Previously, the critics' association bestowed its biggest awards on Paul Thomas Anderson's drama "The Master." That included the titles of best picture, best director and best screenplay, with co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman named best supporting actor.
Other awards went to "ParaNorman" for best animated feature, "Amour" for best foreign-language film and "Beyond the Black Rainbow" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" in a tie for best first feature.
The Toronto Film Critics Association was established in 1997 and is comprised of Toronto-based journalists and broadcasters who specialize in film criticism and commentary.
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