Hours after learning she had landed an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, stunned Toronto filmmaker Domee Shi said the nod offered welcome “validation” that stories led by diverse characters can succeed.

    The Pixar writer-director shines a light on the coming-of-age anxiety of a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl in ‘Turning Red,’ and is one of a select group of Canadians vying for the Oscar glory, including fellow Torontonian Sarah Polley vying for best picture and best adapted screenplay with her drama “Women Talking.”

    Shi attributed a bit of superstition to landing the second Oscar nomination of her career with her music-focused feature film in Toronto, noting that she deliberately ignored Tuesday’s announcement because she made the same when his animated short “Bao” got a nomination and won in 2019.

    “I didn’t want to jinx it so I decided to sleep while the nominations were read again and just rely on friends and family texting and calling me to find out if we whether we got the nomination or not,” Shi said in a video call from Oakland. , California.

    Shi said the honor was especially meaningful because “Turning Red” represented so many firsts in her career, including Pixar’s first film to be helmed by a female-dominated crew and the first film to have a Canadian female director. Asian origin.

    “I put a lot of pressure on myself to make this movie not just financially successful, but just to be critically recognized,” she said, going on to describe what Oscar attention means to her.

    “It’s that validation, but it’s also that proof just to show the big studios watching: You can create Universal Stories that feature a diverse protagonist and feature diverse creative leadership and those stories are Universal Stories. “

    Polley’s ensemble drama “Women Talking” earned two nominations for its book-to-screen reimagining of Manitoba author Miriam Toews’ novel of the same name in 2018.

    It is about a group of women from a remote Mennonite community who gather in a hayloft to discuss what to do when they discover that several men from the settlement have committed a series of assaults. sexual.

    The film brings Polley his second Academy Award nomination for an adapted screenplay, following the 2007 feature “Away From Her” about a long-married couple affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

    “Women Talking” is competing for the coveted top prize against nine other films, including “Avatar: The Way of Water,” by Ontario filmmaker James Cameron.

    Shi’s film, about a girl who discovers she has the ability to transform into a giant red panda, takes on Chris Williams, an alum of Sheridan College in Kitchener, Ont., who directed feature film ‘Sea Beast’ animation on a crew of sailors. monster hunters.

    Other Canadian projects receiving accolades on Tuesday included the animated short “The Flying Sailor,” directed by Calgary’s Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis.

    Competing in the Best Animated Short category, the film is based on a maritime tale about a sailor who was tossed into the air after two ships collided in Halifax Harbor during World War I. world.

    Meanwhile, National Geographic’s Canadian-American documentary “Fire of Love” – ​​about French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who died in an explosion – is among the nominees for a feature documentary.

    “Fire of Love” takes on “Navalny,” an investigation into the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, led by Toronto native Daniel Roher.

    In performance categories, actor Brendan Fraser continues to garner accolades for his role in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale.”

    Fraser, who went to high school in Toronto but was born in the United States to Canadian parents, is nominated for Best Actor for his turn as a reclusive English teacher living with obesity who tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter .

    Montreal makeup artist Adrien Morot was nominated for Best Makeup and Best Hairstyle for his work on “The Whale,” alongside Judy Chin and Anne Marie Bradley. He was previously nominated for Best Makeup in 2011 for “Barney’s Version.”

    The winners will be announced March 12 at a ceremony hosted by late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel and broadcast on CTV.


    — With files from Noel Ransome in Toronto.


    This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 24, 2023.

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