Filmmaker Deepa Mehta "Funny Boy", an adaptation of Shyam Selvadurai’s coming-of-age novel of the same name, has been selected to represent Canada in the 2021 Oscar race in the international feature category.
Telefilm Canada announced Thursday that a pan-Canadian committee of about 20 voting delegates chose the project out of a total of 11 films submitted for Academy Awards consideration.
The film Funny Boy, co-written by Deepa Mehta and Selvaduri, was shot on location and set in Sri Lanka in the ’70s and ’80s and explores the awakening of sexual identity by a young boy named Arjie (portrayed by Arush Nand and Brandon Ingram).
As political tensions escalate to a boiling point between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, a young boy comes of age in a society and family that doesn’t embrace difference outside of societal norms. The film centres on Arjie’s struggle to find balance and self-love despite the absence of empathy and understanding.
David Hamilton and Hussain Amarshi produced "Funny Boy," with a cast including Brandon Ingram, Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, and Arush Nand.
Mehta shot it in Sri Lanka with a mostly Sri Lankan cast and some Canadian actors before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She was also able to finish the editing in Madrid and catch the last flight back from there to Toronto before the lockdown.
But the team had to do post-production remotely in Toronto, working with actors in Sri Lanka to record added dialogue.
Three-time Oscar-winning Canadian composer Howard Shore had to arrange the score from New York, working with musicians as far away as Mumbai and Switzerland.
The film also has a superstar supporter in Oscar-nominated director-producer Ava DuVernay, whose ARRAY Releasing distribution company recently acquired the film.
"Funny Boy" will debut on CBC-TV on Dec. 4 and then hit the CBC Gem streaming service, followed by Netflix outside of Canada on Dec. 10.
"I remember Ava saying that this is what she really would have liked," Mehta said. "She said, 'If, by any chance, you get the nomination from Canada, we at ARRAY' — and I quote her — 'will roll up our sleeves and we'll be right behind it.
The 2021 Oscars will take place later than usual, on April 25, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.