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Megan Durnford, her film LAST RESPECTS, and the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary

Megan Durnford with her Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary. Photo by her daughter Charlotte Dunford-Dionne
Megan Durnford (photo courtesy of Charlotte Dunford-Dionne by way of the Westmount Independent

Well, in the category of “better late than never,” I just discovered that Megan Durnford won one helluva an award back in May*. The award is the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary and is for Megan’s short documentary LAST RESPECTS (more on that in just one sec). As some of you know, Megan is also the writer and director behind I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, a documentary dealing with so-called COPMI (“Children of Parents with Mental Illness”). Yours truly was in that film, dealing with my mom’s diagnosis of schizophrenia and what growing up in that environment was like.

Regrettably, I have not seen LAST RESPECTS as of yet, but the film deals with a part of our culture that is really never talked about, at least publicly. As Megan noted, “What happens to Montrealers who die alone and whose bodies are not ‘claimed’ by loved ones?” As she began doing research, she came across a short article that discussed Father Claude Paradis and his annual ceremony for these forgotten people of Montreal. Rather than have me blather on about it, though, you can read Megan’s own thoughts about the film by reading her essay at https://povmagazine.com/reflections-on-the-making-of-last-respects/. The trailer for the film is on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8vOsGlC5BQ

The film also led to a really unique collaboration. Megan worked with her son, Hugh Durnford-Dionne, a cinematographer and editor in his own right and the two were able to mesh their skills as they developed the film project. While I’ve only met Hugh briefly, it is really neat that the two of them were able to work together in such a fashion. Not every family could actually complete a journey like that.

As the HOT DOCS — Jury statement notes, “For its human, simple and necessary approach to the universal theme of the dignity and value of every single life that stands out by virtue of its compelling, skilfully crafted visual language as much as its personal story and message.” And Instagram has a snazzy photo of Megan accepting her award!

I would encourage you to seek out the film, as I plan on doing, and also follow along with Megan’s career. And remember: she is not only a filmmaker, but is an author.

Salut, Megan!

* Yes, May, but I only came across the news yesterday courtesy of Westmount Independent, based in the island of Montreal.

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