Award-winning Canadian Writer/Director Connor Gaston’s (short films Godhead, ’Til Death, Bardo Light) first feature film The Devout led the field with 14 nominations, including Best Motion Picture and Best Screenwriting, taking home 7 Leo Awards from 14 nominations this past weekend, including Best Motion Picture and Best Performance by a Female in a Supporting Role for 5-year-old Olivia Martin.
The story, about a father whose faith is tested when he begins to believe his terminally-ill child was an Apollo astronaut in a previous life, has had successful festival runs at the Vancouver International Film Festival, South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival, the Victoria Film Festival, and more.
The film was well-received everywhere it’s played, earning wins for the BC Emerging Filmmaker Award and the Best Canadian Feature Film Award in Vancouver and Victoria, respectively, and a nomination for Busan’s top international prize. It is now headed to China for the prestigious Shanghai International Film Festival where it will screen on June 11 and 15.
Loosely based on true events, Gaston used a childhood memory as inspiration for the story. “When I was three, my parents half-seriously asked me if I could remember being someone else. According to them, I said yes, claiming my name was Mark and I’d been a carpenter,” muses Gaston.
Top-lined by veteran acting talents Charlie Carrick (Ally Was Screaming, Molly Maxwell) and Ali Liebert (Bomb Girls, Strange Empire), Gabrielle Rose (The Sweet Hereafter, If I Stay), and David Nykl (Tomorrowland, Arrow), the film dared to cast four-year old newcomer Olivia Martin in the pivotal role of the is-she-or-isn’t-she reincarnated child.
“Olivia is a natural. I never thought working with a four-year old could be such a joy,” remarks Gaston. Originally envisioned as a boy, her role was rewritten when producers found Martin by placing an ad at a preschool in Victoria, where the film primarily shot for three and a half weeks this past January. Carrick, Liebert and Martin were all awarded Leos for their performances.
Gaston, a graduate of the University of Victoria Creative Writing Program, knew he wanted to make movies when he realized that screenwriting would not be enough to fulfill him creatively. His advice to other aspiring filmmakers: “Do it yourself. Use your iPhone if you have to. These days there are no excuses.”
The Devout was made possible by the Telefilm Microbudget Program, the BC Arts Council and Cinevic Society of Independent Filmmakers. For a full list of the film’s Leo Awards wins, click here.
Based on true events, The Devout is the story of a humble father in a rural Bible belt town in British Columbia who must face his church, his wife and ultimately himself when he begins to believe that his dying daughter was an astronaut in a previous life.
Watch the Trailer.