In local filmmaker Justin Oakey’s crime drama Riverhead, an outport community is divided when two vengeful brothers reignite their father’s feud with a middle aged man. 

It was announced this week that the film is up for two Canadian Screen awards. The awards will be held on March 12th in Toronto, televised live on CBC, and hosted by Howie Mandell. The Canadian Screen awards are the result of a merge between the former Genie and Gemini Awards.

The nominations are for Best Performance from an Actor in a Leading Role (Lawrence Barry; Grand Falls) and Best Performance from an Actor in a Supporting Role (Evan Mercer; Shearstown). The nomination puts Mercer head to head with fellow nominee Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Ocean’s 12 &13, Shrek).

This marks the first time 2 Newfoundlanders have been up for top actor honours at the Canadian Screen Awards – there is rarely even one on the ballot.

Mercer says he enjoyed playing the role of Robert Winsor because “I got to play little brother to my friend Steven Oates. I also relished the opportunity to tell a gritty story about small town Newfoundland. Growing up in Shearstown you’d see some of these guys who appeared tough, or came from a rough family, and tapping into those experiences was fun for me.”

He says that being recognized nationally is great “but also a little mind blowing. I thought everyone in the movie was fantastic, so I was surprised to get singled out. It is just incentive to keep working and pushing towards the goal of being a full-time performer.”

As for Lawrence Barry, this wasn’t the first time Oakey worked with him. The character Barry resurrects in Riverhead was borne out of Oakey’s short film, Flankers. “We formed quite a friendship and bonded over family connections in the Grand Falls-Winsor area,” Oakey says, of filming Flankers together. “When I pitched him the feature-length idea for Riverhead, he was chomping at the bit to make it together. The story is fixated on his character, so he’s got the lion’s share of screen time.”

Back in May, Oakey told The Overcast the plot of the film was inspired by stories his grandmother told him about Catholics and Protestants constantly scrapping with each other up the North Shore. “I think it’s a complex slice of history,” he said of this piece of our island’s past that is “rarely explored on screen.”

Lawrence Barry is a nominee in the Best Actor category