Film adaptation of Canada Reads contender Scarborough nominated for 11 Canadian Screen Awards

Scarborough author Catherine Hernandez is among the nominees, scoring a nod for best adapted screenplay.

Author Catherine Hernandez is among the nominees, scoring a nod for best adapted screenplay

Catherine Hernandez is the author of Scarborough. The novel is being championed by actor and activist Malia Baker on Canada Reads. (CBC)

The screen adaptation of Canada Reads contender Scarborough is among the top nominated films for the 10th annual Canadian Screen Awards.

The critically acclaimed film version of Scarborough, adapted by novelist Catherine Hernandez herself, tied with director Danis Goulet's Night Raiders for 11 nominations, including nods for best picture, direction, cinematography and adapted screenplay.

Scarborough, Hernandez's 2017 debut novel, centres around an ensemble cast of characters in the titular Toronto suburb, the author's hometown. Following three low-income families who struggle to rise above a system that constantly fails them, the novel examines both the troubles and triumphs of Scarborough and the people who live there.

Directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson, the film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and received strong reviews for its natural performances and Hernandez's screenplay — her first attempt at writing for film.

"There was nothing glamorous about how this book was written. I wrote it during a time when I could not see 24 hours ahead of me, let alone my next paycheque. I edited at the crack of dawn and while my daycare children napped," Hernandez said in a statement.

"But for our team to get 11 nominations in an industry that I just entered is beyond my wildest dreams. I wish I could go back in time to that woman living on the edge and tell her, 'There will be an entire team of talented, creative people who will stand by this story and everything will be all right.' I am forever grateful for this team's hard work in making this happen and to the jury for recognizing us." 

Scarborough co-director Nakhai was also thrilled by the news of the film's multiple 2022 CSA nominations, announced Tuesday by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

"Our entire cast and crew poured so much love into every frame of this film. For that to be seen and recognized by fellow filmmakers means so much to us," Nakai told CBC Books.

When Hernandez first approached Nakhai and Williamson (who are creative collaborators and life partners) about turning her novel into a movie, using a documentary-style approach, the filmmakers immediately took to the idea, Nakai said.

Community has been, and will be, what gets us through the intersecting crises of our time.- Shasha Nakhai

"In terms of the story, I love so many things about Catherine's writing, but what struck me the most was how much truth and nuance there is in the smallest details. I had never seen anything like this on screen, and I wanted to be part of making that happen."

Nakhai sees the film adaptation as a parallel experience to reading the novel, which will be championed by actor Malia Baker on Canada Reads from March 28-31. The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio One, CBC TV, CBC Gem and on CBC Books.

"We couldn't fit everything from the book into the film, but we feel that we adequately captured the core themes and spirit of the novel. Our hope is that the two complement each other."

Liam Diaz and Aliya Kanani, who helped bring two of the novel's main characters — Bing, a young gay Filipino student, and Hina, a dedicated literacy worker — to life, are nominated for CSAs for best actor and actress respectively, while Indigenous actor, storyteller and activist Cherish Violet Blood is up for best supporting actress for her role as Marie, a burdened but loving mother.

"​Every single actor in our ensemble cast brought a little piece of their individual magic to this film," Nakhai said. "We are so proud of Liam, Aliya and Cherish for their performances, but also particularly proud of the parts of their real-life personalities that shone through."

Scarborough will screen at select Canadian theatres beginning Feb. 25, including in the Toronto area (including, of course, Scarborough itself), Hamilton, Saskatoon, St. Catherines, Sudbury and Vancouver.

Nakhai hopes audiences who see the film will "come away with a renewed commitment to community, and the people who hold communities together — educators, caregivers, frontline workers. Community has been, and will be, what gets us through the intersecting crises of our time."

Other literary-related 2022 Canadian Screen Awards film nominees include eight nods for All My Puny Sorrows, adapted from the award-winning 2014 novel by Winnipeg author Miriam Toews. Toronto writer and filmmaker David Bezmozgis, whose short-story collection Natasha and Other Stories was shortlisted for Canada Reads in 2007, is nominated for best adapted screenplay for co-writing the animated feature Charlotte, the true story of a young German-Jewish artist during the Second World War.

Nominees in the television category include YTV's small-screen series The Hardy Boys, based on the popular mystery novels created by Edward Stratemeyer, while the televised 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize gala also garnered two nominations. Newfoundland writer and poet Michael Crummey is also a nominee for best interactive production as the writer of the National Film Board's Far Away From Far Away, a mobile "interactive story" project about Fogo Island entrepreneur Zita Cobb.

The 2022 Canadian Screen Awards will be presented in April, including a virtual gala on April 10 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBC and CBC Gem.

The Canada Reads 2022 contenders

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