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Riceboy Sleeps and Brother are Canada’s buzziest new movies. Will it mean anything at the box office?

Two young men sit side by side on a picnic table at sunset.

Anthony Shim is riding high. The Vancouver-based actor turned-director is sitting on an awards-goldmine: in the year since his film Riceboy Sleeps hit the circuit, it has already won top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Windsor International Film Festival, the Directors Guild of Canada’s Discovery award and the Toronto Film Critics Association’s $100,000 award — not to mention a few others. 

He’s not alone. As his movie hit theatres on Friday, so too did Clement Virgo’s Brother — a retelling of David Chariandy’s Scarborough-set novel — which is currently the leading nominee at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards. And after a limited release last week, Chandler Levack’s I Like Movies brought the story of a narcissistic Burlington teenager’s Hollywood aspirations to more audiences across Canada on Friday as well.

Lamar Johnson, left, and Aaron Pierre appear in this still from Brother. The film is critically acclaimed, and the leading nominee at the Canadian Screen Awards. Will that be enough to ensure an audience at the box office? (TIFF)

With so much to celebrate, it may be a bit strange to hear how all three directors speak about both the future of their films and this country’s film industry. Because, even as the cachet of Canadian productions continues to improve, a uniquely unrewarding system raises the question: What does success here even mean?

Tár and The Fablemans — these by some of the great filmmakers of the world, the biggest movie stars of the world — are struggling in the box office,” Shim told CBC News. “So I try and set my expectations accordingly to the realities of the current day.”

WATCH | Riceboy Sleeps director Anthony Shim on the wider impact of his film: 

Director Anthony Shim relieved his highly personal film about Korean immigrants is resonating with wider audiences

With his movie Riceboy Sleeps opening across Canada, the Vancouver-based director speaks about the emotional journey he went on to tell the story.

The long-term survival of movies and the theatrical experience became an international question even before pandemic lockdowns. But the problem is especially prominent in Canada, where even with a wheelbarrow of festival prizes or an awards-show sweep, the glass ceiling for the most lauded of Canadian movies is still, to filmmakers, frighteningly low. 

“It is a really dire time. You look at the box office of any Canadian movie and they’re all huge flops, right?” I Like Movies director Chandler…

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