Jason Buxton's teen-centred drama Blackbird, a powerful and nuanced tale about bullying, paranoia and the dangers of social media, has earned the Nova Scotia filmmaker Canada's Claude Jutra Award.
The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced Buxton as the latest winner of the Telefilm Canada-sponsored movie prize on Tuesday, with the ACCT's Quebec chair Richard Speer describing Blackbird as "a cutting edge and socially poignant debut film."
Buxton will be honoured at the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards on March 3. Blackbird is also nominated for CSA awards for his original screenplay and for its editing.
Starring young Canadian actor and producer Connor Jessup, Blackbird revolves around a vulnerable but defiant outcast and bullying victim who is falsely accused of planning a mass school shooting, in part because of misinterpreted writing, online posts and text messages.
Buxton, who wrote, directed and produced the film, initially began researching the project as a documentary rather than a dramatic film. His tale offers a stark portrait of the modern juvenile detention system as well as a snapshot of how fear of school shootings can paralyze a community.
"I am absolutely thrilled with this honour," Buxton said in a statement.
"To be recognized by my peers for excellence in filmmaking is deeply meaningful, and looking back at the calibre of directors honoured over the past 20 years of the award's history is both humbling and reassuring."
Blackbird had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, where Jessup was one of the edition's "Rising Stars." The film, which tied for TIFF's best Canadian first feature prize, subsequently won awards at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Atlantic Film Festival.
Established in 1993, the Claude Jutra Award is named after the late French-Canadian director of Mon Oncle Antoine and honours the outstanding achievement of first-time feature filmmaker.