Telling Stories on the Big Screen
By Karl Whitmore
"I'm an artist who tells stories about people who look like me."
- Globe & Mail
Clement Virgo is a celebrated Canadian filmmaker. It is fitting that the 40 something year old Jamaican-born filmmaker's latest film Poor Boy's Story, starring Danny Glover, will lead several Canadian entries, premiering at one of the most the prestigious film festivals in the world - the Berlin International Film Festival.
Speaking about his new film, Virgo said, "My passion for Poor Boy's Game was sparked by the idea of exploring tribalism through two characters that choose to step outside of their respective tribes in order to heal a community." Virgo draws comparisons between Poor Boy's Story and classic American films such as On The Waterfront, Rebel Without a Cause and Marty.
Poor Boys Game, a drama, was shot in Spryfield and Halifax in the spring of 2006. Directed by the Toronto-based Virgo, the film's script was written by Nova Scotia native Chas Thorne.
Clement Virgo's work is also no stranger to Cannes. Twelve years ago, he became an international sensation for his directorial debut for Rude which won Best Director Award in the Genie Awards, Canada's answer to the Oscars in '96 a nomination for Best Screenplay that year.
Then came the awards: three Genies for Love Come Down in 2000, an Emmy nomination for The Planet of Luther Brown in '97, and critically acclaimed videos. In 2005 he released the sexually explicit, Lie With Me based on a book written by his wife, Tamara Faith Berger.
The journey to becoming a filmmaker is one many young immigrant students are familiar with. At the age of 11 Virgo, his mom and his three siblings immigrated to the Oakwood and Eglinton area of West Toronto.
In high school, though he had a passion for film, it was simply not encouraged. In a 2007 interview in the Globe & Mail, he revealed "I didn't know what I wanted to do. I liked art, but I was told to pick a trade. I picked woodworking."
Still, it took a film program for filmmakers of colour at the Canadian Film Centre for him realize his dream deferred. His 1993 short film won prizes for Best Short Film at the 1993 Toronto and Chicago International Film Festivals and then there was no looking back.