The very first Gemini awards ceremony took place in Toronto in 1986 and were hosted by, get this, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas and Andrea Martin stars of SCTV and countless Hollywood movies. Some would charge that the night has been all downhill from there and they could be right when considering some of the less-than-stellar-named hosts who have followed.
Steve Smith of The Red Green Show was the host after that. Sean Cullen, Ron James, Valerie Pringle one year, Steve Smith again, Rick Mercer when he was at the height of his career, 90210’s Jason Priestley, and your boyfriend George Strombolopolous, CBC’s talk-show honcho. Tonight, Glee’s Cory Monteith has been given the honour of entertaining the crowd and introducing the presenters.
The venue is The Winter Garden Theatre on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto and it’s still the most glamorous night in Canadian television. Canada’s Emmys in the nation’s Manhattan is in full swing. The lights are bright as the crowds wait for nominees and presenters to arrive. The limousines pull up and a galaxy of Canada’s homegrown stars swan out – Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice, Shaun Majumder, Gavin Crawford, Nicholas Campbell, singer Ron Sexsmith, Enrico Colantoni, Peter Keleghan and Grace Park. Never heard of them?
Well, have you heard of Mark McKinney (Kid in the Hall)? Rick Mercer (This Hour Has 22 Minutes)? Feist (1, 2, 3, 4)? Or Elvis Costello, who is nominated for his brilliant music variety program Spectacle?
Also on hand but arriving limo-less was the small team from Montreal, Rezolution Pictures’ Catherine Bainbridge, Christina Fon, Linda Ludwick, Anne-Marie Belhadj and Neil Diamond.
Reel Injun was being nominated for the prestigious Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary. This was the second nomination for that award for Rezolution Pictures. The first was in 2005 for One More River, the documentary about the Paix Des Braves agreement between the Cree and the Quebec government.
A couple of weekends before, Reel Injun won for best direction in a documentary program. The award went to Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge and Jeremiah Hayes. Bainbridge and Hayes were on hand to accept the Gemini. Diamond missing in action, was allegedly at a screening somewhere in frigid Alaska.
That very same night, Reel Injun also picked up the Gemini for Best Visual Research, with the prize going to Elizabeth Klinck and Laura Blaney. While Claude Castonguay and Mona LaViolette remained nominees in the best original music score for a documentary program or series category.
A few weeks before the award ceremonies, Reel Injun won the Canada Award, which honours excellence in television programming that best reflects the racial and cultural diversity of the country.
Finally, the ceremony began and the first two winners were announced. It was now time for the winner of the Donald Brittain Award to be announced and short clips from the nominees were shown. Then, “…and award goes to… Broke!” Huge applause as Rosie Dransfeld goes up and happily accepts Canada’s most prestigious documentary prize. Diamond says, “Well… I’m outta here…”
The after-party is being held at the historic and luxurious Royal York Fairmount Hotel not far from the theatre. There is music, food and drink. Elvis Costello is surrounded by admirers waiting to be photographed with him. All the stars are mingling. Around midnight Elvis leaves the building. The Montreal crew are still on the dance floor celebrating their nomination and Diamond is enjoying all the free wine and food he can stand. When it gets to be too much he quietly slips away before the night is over, feeling like a winner.
A very glamorous night indeed.