Local filmmaker Shane Belcourt nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards for his Beautiful Scars documentary.

Beautiful Scars tells the story of Canadian musician Tom Wilson and how he discovered and reconnected with his Mohawk heritage. Based on the book by Wilson, the documentary is nominated for three 2023 Canadian Screen Awards and directed by local resident Shane Belcourt.

By CINDY CHIM

Upper Beach area filmmaker Shane Belcourt is thrilled his latest documentary, Beautiful Scars, has been nominated for the 2023 Canadian Screen Award.

Based on musician Tom Wilson’s memoir book, Beautiful Scars, the documentary under the same name released by TVO, depicts how Wilson found his Mohawk heritage at almost 60 years of age. His heritage had been hidden by his adoptive parents, said Wilson, and the book and film depicts how he rebuilt a relationship with his birth mother.

“It’s vital to me that somebody like Tom and his family would walk away from the experience of making the movie with me in a positive way,” said Belcourt in an interview with Beach Metro Community News.

An acclaimed filmmaker with a long resume including Amplify, Red Rover and Indictment, Belcourt said it was an honour to be given the chance to tell Wilson’s story. “Someone is going to give me a gift of their story, of their humanity. How do I nurture that relationship? Have that nurturing reflected on the screen?”

A producer contacted Belcourt to ask him to take on the Beautiful Scars documentary project, and Belcourt said he was worried at first because he only knew Wilson as a fan of his music. Wilson is a three-time Juno Award winner who has played in the well-known bands Junkhouse; Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and Lee Harvey Osmond along with writing for other musicians including Sara McLachlan, The Rankin Family and Colin James. To be the director of this personal and intimate story, Belcourt said he was unsure whether he was someone Wilson could trust and get close with.

Belcourt described when he first met Wilson: “It was like within two minutes, this is great. This is my new best friend.”

Based on his work on Beautiful Scars, Belcourt observed that a lot of families share similar fractures and disruptions as those faced by Wilson.

“The power of familial love and the power of knowing where you fit in the universe through your family” is the message of the documentary, said Belcourt.

He said that if families can confront difficult truths together, honestly and frankly, then perhaps a deepening of their bonds, or at the very least a deepening of their understanding of their origins, can result and that ultimately can be liberating.

Making documentaries has always been meaningful for Belcourt. It represents an “honor bound” to him, because all the works are done based on people’s trust and their comfort in telling their stories in front of his camera.

Belcourt said that with a smaller crew, documentary production is intimate and improvisational when compared to fictional films. Everyone in the documentary is not an actor; they are displaying their real life on screen, and Belcourt cannot control their action or words. He said he needs to be aware and responds to the moment, while creating a safe environment for subjects to share their experience with a camera rolling.

As a Métis, the stories of Indigenous people play an important role in Belcourt’s career. He said his aim in filming every documentary is to be “answerable to the Indigenous community.”

“I see myself as a propaganda filmmaker,” said Belcourt. “I think that all documentary filmmakers are absolutely subjective and not objective… I’m very aware of the power that we have as storytellers within this medium of screen-based media.”

Belcourt said that with every edit he made for Beautiful Scars, it represented his choice in framing the story and he always remembers he is a member of the people on the screen.

The 2023 Canadian Screen Award gather the country’s top talent in the film, television, and digital sectors. Beautiful Scars is nominated for three awards, including Best Direction, Best Picture Editing, and Best Biography or Arts Documentary. The Canadian Screen Awards will be presented on Sunday, April 16.


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