Hanging Garden, The

Director Thom Fitzgerald's feature debut, The Hanging Garden (1997), is both revelatory and mysterious. The film concerns an attempted reconciliation between a young man's repressed past and his bolder, openly gay, adult personality, and Fitzgerald's penchant for surreal family situations is on full display. The Hanging Garden features an accomplished ensemble cast, including Peter MacNeill, Seana McKenna and Sarah POLLEY, plus a noteworthy cameo by fiddler savant Ashley MacIsaac. It is the most auspicious debut by a Canadian filmmaker since Jean-Claude LAUZON's UN ZOO LA NUIT in 1987.

On his sister's wedding day, a young man known as Sweet William (Chris Leavins) comes back to his rural Nova Scotia home after a bitter absence of nearly 10 years. As all his relatives gather in the garden that encompasses the homestead, William confronts his past to reclaim his place in the family circle. His visit is plagued by memories of an unhappy childhood as a shy, budding, overweight homosexual.

The Hanging Garden was nominated for numerous GENIE Awards and won for best original screenplay (Fitzgerald), supporting actor (MacNeill) and supporting actress (McKenna) as well as the CLAUDE JUTRA AWARD for best direction of a first feature. It also simultaneously won the 1997 Toronto International Film Festival Best Canadian Feature Film Award and the festival's top honour, the People's Choice Award - only the second time that the same film has won both awards. In 1986, Denys ARCAND's LE DÉCLIN DE L'EMPIRE AMÉRICAIN achieved the same honour.