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Limited series 'Little Bird,' film 'BlackBerry' top Canadian Screen Award nominations

Actors Darla Contois (left) and Lisa Edelstein from the Crave and APTN series "Little Bird" are shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-APTN, CRAVE
HO Actors Darla Contois (left) and Lisa Edelstein from the Crave and APTN series "Little Bird" are shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-APTN, CRAVE HO

A limited series about an Indigenous woman's search for her birth family and a comedy film chronicling the creation of a game-changing smartphone dominate this year's Canadian Screen Award nominations.

The Crave/APTN original series “Little Bird” leads the TV series categories with 19 nominations, including for best drama series, best drama performance for stars Darla Contois and Ellyn Jade and best drama direction for Zoe Leigh Hopkins and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers.

About a '60s Scoop survivor fostered into a Jewish family in Montreal, the six-part series features a largely Indigenous cast and creative team and was co-created by Jennifer Podemski and Hannah Moscovitch.

It's up against CBC's “Essex County” and “Plan B,” Hollywood Suite's “Slasher: Ripper” and CTV's “Transplant” for best drama series.

“BlackBerry,” helmed by Toronto director Matt Johnson, leads the film categories with 17 nods - including for best picture and achievement in direction - becoming the most nominated movie in the history of the 11-year-old Canadian Screen Awards, according to organizers.

Set in Waterloo, Ont. in the '90s, the film follows the dramatic rise and fall of the BlackBerry mobile device and its inventors. Jay Baruchel has been nominated for best performance in a leading role in a comedy for his turn as company co-founder Mike Lazaridis, while Glenn Howerton, who plays co-CEO Jim Balsillie, and Johnson, who plays co-founder Doug Fregin, are both up for best supporting role in a comedy.

The film won the $50,000 best Canadian feature prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association earlier this week and made TIFF's Canada's Top Ten list for 2023.

It's competing with “Solo,” “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person,” “Infinity Pool,” “Red Rooms (Les chambres rouges)” and “Richelieu” for best motion picture.

Other leading TV nominees include the final seasons of CBC comedies “Sort Of” and “Workin' Moms,” boasting 18 and 12 nods, respectively.

“Sort Of,” a dramedy about a gender-fluid Pakistani Canadian millennial balancing various identities, is up for best direction and best writing in a comedy.

The show is up against Crave's “Bria Mack Gets A Life” and “Letterkenny,” CBC's “Son of a Critch” and “Workin' Moms” and CTV's “Shelved” for best comedy series.

In the film categories, Quebec director and screenwriter Ariane Louis-Seize's feature “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person” secured 12 nominations, while Toronto native Brandon Cronenberg's “Infinity Pool” followed with 11.

Louis-Seize's French-language dramedy - about a sensitive teenage vampire who forms a bond with a depressed boy - is up for achievement in direction and best original screenplay. She won a $10,000 emerging artist prize from the Toronto critics' association earlier this week and won the best director prize at last year's Venice Days.

The best film director race pits Johnson, Louise-Seize and Cronenberg against Henri Pardo for “Kanaval,” Pascal Plante for “Red Rooms (Les chambres rouges)” and Sophie Dupuis for “Solo.”

“The Drop,” Narcity's first fully scripted YouTube show, and the CBC Gem series “How to Fail as a Popstar,” based on Vivek Shraya's hit play and subsequent book, lead digital media nominations with five each.

The 156 trophies celebrating the best in Canadian film, television and digital media will be handed out in a series of award shows leading up to a gala hosted by comedian Mae Martin on May 31, which will air on CBC and CBC Gem a few hours later.

It's the second consecutive year the celebration won't be broadcast live.

Traditionally, the Screen Awards have been a star-studded live event in front of an audience. Tammy Frick, the CEO of the Academy, said pre-taping allows the gala to highlight more “industry-heavy” elements that might overwhelm a TV audience.

Last year, Canadian comic Samantha Bee hosted the Screen Awards, taping her segments in New York weeks before the show. In contrast, this year's broadcast will include moments from the Toronto gala hosted by Martin several hours earlier, along with recorded segments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2024.

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