Clement Virgo well-placed to win Canadian Screen Award for “Brother”

Clement Virgo

Toronto filmmaker Clement Virgo has worked in the industry for over two decades, yet he says he was surprised to find out that his coming-of-age film set in Scarborough is this year’s leading film nominee heading into the Canadian Screen Awards.

Virgo’s feature “Brother,” which is based on the novel by David Chariandy, received 14 nods from the Canadian Academy of Cinema and Television on Wednesday, including best motion picture and achievement in direction.

The adaptation, which dives into societal challenges facing two Jamaican Canadian brothers in the 1990s, debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and made TIFF’s Top Ten list for 2022.

“I’ve been making films for (more than) 20 years and I’ve had my ups and downs in terms of getting a nomination or not being nominated,” said Virgo, who won a Canadian Screen Award for best direction in a limited series with the CBC series “The Book of Negros” in 2016.

“When you get nominations, it’s kind of a confirmation of the fact that people respond to your work,” Virgo said. “I never take it for granted because filmmaking is hard.”

David Chariandy

Virgo added that it’s gratifying for him to witness BIPOC-led content leading the CSA nominations and being embraced in Canada.

“I remember when I first started, there was a handful of filmmakers doing the work and there were a handful of activists,” said Virgo, who entered the industry with his crime drama “Rude” in 1995.

“For the Academy to acknowledge and to say that this is the best of the Canadian film industry is great.”

The film’s star Lamar Johnson is also up for performance in a leading role for his turn as a younger brother living in the shadow of a dynamic older sibling while taking care of his mother. The feature is set for a theatrical release on March 17.

Johnson said that he woke up to text messages and felt overwhelmed by the number of nominations tied to a project he feels was defined by effort and passion.

“This is very special to me, especially with it being the Canadian Academy,” said Johnson. “Me being a Canadian boy, being born and bred here and this being my first real nomination, I would say I’m really grateful.”


Scene from Brother