Jamie M. Dagg's feature film debut River has earned the Toronto-based writer and director the Claude Jutra Award.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television will present Dagg with the first-feature honour at the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards on March 13.

Originally from Timmins, Ont., Dagg previously directed music videos for bands such as Broken Social Scene and Bedouin Soundclash. He also directed the short films Waiting and Sunday.

River, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, stars Rossif Sutherland as a volunteer doctor in Laos who becomes a fugitive after he intervenes in a sexual assault.

Noted Vancouver actor Sutherland, a member of the Sutherland acting clan, is nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for his lead role in the drama.

River

Rossif Sutherland stars in River as a volunteer doctor in Laos who becomes a fugitive after he intervenes in a sexual assault. (Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television)

"Jamie M. Dagg's command of the complex moral story and landscape in River surpasses what we normally see from debutant directors," academy chair Martin Katz said in a statement.

"He is well-deserving of the Claude Jutra Award."

Established in 1993, the annual Jutra  prize celebrates outstanding achievement by a director making his or her first feature-length movie. It's named after the renowned Quebec director, who died in 1986. Jutra is best known for directing the Canadian classic Mon Oncle Antoine.

Past Jutra Award-winners have included Sarah Polley, Xavier Dolan, Zacharias Kunuk, Don McKellar, Louise Archambault, Philippe Falardeau, Robert Lepage and Anne Émond.

River is slated for theatrical release on March 4.