The John Dunning Best First Feature Award is a special Canadian film award, presented by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television to the year's best feature film by a first-time film director. Under the earlier names Claude Jutra Award and Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature, the award has been presented since the 14th Genie Awards in 1993.[1][2]

Formerly a juried prize whose winner was announced in advance of the ceremony, the award is now presented as a conventional category with a full shortlist of nominees.

To date four films, The Confessional (Le Confessionnal), Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, Away from Her and A Colony (Une colonie), have won both the Best First Feature and Best Picture awards in the same year; the first three films' directors also won the award for Best Director for the same films.


The award was originally named in memory of Claude Jutra, a Canadian film director who died in 1986.[3] Formerly part of the Genie Awards ceremonies, the Claude Jutra Award was transitioned to be part of the new Canadian Screen Awards in 2013.

Following the February 2016 publication of Yves Lever's biography of Jutra, which contained allegations that Jutra had sexually abused underage children during his lifetime, the Academy announced that it was removing Jutra's name from the award.[4] Québec Cinéma also removed Jutra's name from its Prix Jutra ceremonies on the same day.[4]

The award was presented for the next three years as the Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature. At the 4th Canadian Screen Awards in 2016, the John Dunning Discovery Award, named in memory of film producer John Dunning, was introduced to honour microbudget films. Initially it was a separate award from the Best First Feature category, with the two awards presented alongside each other to different films for the next three years.[5]

For the 7th Canadian Screen Awards in 2019, the Academy announced that the awards would be merged under the John Dunning Best First Feature Award name.


Claude Jutra Award

Year Film Director
14th Genie Awards
The Grocer's Wife John Pozer
15th Genie Awards
Louis 19, King of the Airwaves (Louis 19, le roi des ondes) Michel Poulette
16th Genie Awards
The Confessional (Le Confessionnal) Robert Lepage
17th Genie Awards
Joe's So Mean to Josephine Peter Wellington
18th Genie Awards
The Hanging Garden Thom Fitzgerald
19th Genie Awards
Last Night Don McKellar
20th Genie Awards
Post Mortem Louis Bélanger
21st Genie Awards
The Left-Hand Side of the Fridge (La Moitié gauche du frigo) Philippe Falardeau
22nd Genie Awards
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner Zacharias Kunuk
23rd Genie Awards
Flower & Garnet Keith Behrman
24th Genie Awards
How My Mother Gave Birth to Me During Menopause (Comment ma mère accoucha de moi durant sa ménopause) Sébastien Rose
25th Genie Awards
White Skin (La Peau blanche) Daniel Roby
26th Genie Awards
Familia Louise Archambault
27th Genie Awards
Eve and the Fire Horse Julia Kwan
The Secret Life of Happy People (La Vie secrète des gens heureux) Stéphane Lapointe
28th Genie Awards[6]
Away from Her Sarah Polley
29th Genie Awards
Everything Is Fine (Tout est parfait) Yves Christian Fournier
30th Genie Awards
I Killed My Mother (J'ai tué ma mère) Xavier Dolan
31st Genie Awards
Exit 67 (Sortie 67) Jephté Bastien
32nd Genie Awards
Nuit #1 Anne Émond
1st Canadian Screen Awards
Blackbird Jason Buxton
2nd Canadian Screen Awards
Whitewash Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
3rd Canadian Screen Awards
Bang Bang Baby Jeffrey St. Jules

Best First Feature

Year Film Director
4th Canadian Screen Awards
River Jamie M. Dagg
5th Canadian Screen Awards
Old Stone Johnny Ma
6th Canadian Screen Awards
Ava Sadaf Foroughi

John Dunning Discovery Award

Year Film Director
4th Canadian Screen Awards
Mina Walking Yosef Baraki
5th Canadian Screen Awards
The Lockpicker Randall Okita
6th Canadian Screen Awards
Black Cop Cory Bowles
The Devout Connor Gaston
Wexford Plaza Joyce Wong

John Dunning Best First Feature Award

Year Film Director
7th Canadian Screen Awards
A Colony (Une colonie) Geneviève Dulude-De Celles
Family First (Chien de garde) Sophie Dupuis
Firecrackers Jasmin Mozaffari
The Nest (Le nid) David Paradis
Touched Karl R. Hearne
8th Canadian Screen Awards
Murmur Heather Young
Black Conflux Nicole Dorsey
Mad Dog Labine Jonathan Beaulieu-Cyr, Renaud Lessard
Sympathy for the Devil (Sympathie pour le diable) Guillaume de Fontenay
The Twentieth Century Matthew Rankin

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Claude Jutra Award, The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Valerie J. Webster (1998). Awards, Honors & Prizes: United States and Canada 1999. Gale Research. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-7876-1501-7.
  3. ^ Maria Topalovich, And the Genie Goes To...: Celebrating 50 Years of the Canadian Film Awards. Stoddart Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7737-3238-1. pp. 199-203.
  4. ^ a b "Claude Jutra's name to be pulled from Quebec film awards" Archived March 1, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Ottawa Citizen, February 17, 2016.
  5. ^ "Canadian Screen Awards leave Hollywood behind". The Globe and Mail, January 16, 2018.
  6. ^ "Genie Awards in brief". Daily Gleaner, March 3, 2008.
  7. ^ "Incendies, Barney's Version dominate Genies". CBC News, March 10, 2011.
  8. ^ "Quebec's Anne Émond wins debut director award". CBC News, February 22, 2012.
  9. ^ "Blackbird director Jason Buxton wins first-film honour". CBC News. January 29, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  10. ^ "Le Claude-Jutra à Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais". Le Devoir. January 23, 2014.
  11. ^ "Academy Names Claude Jutra Award Winner" Archived 2015-02-04 at the Wayback Machine. Broadcaster, February 3, 2015.
  12. ^ "Jamie M. Dagg wins Claude Jutra Award for Laos-set thriller River". CBC News, February 4, 2016.
  13. ^ "Ma's 'Old Stone' gets Canadian academy's Best First Feature award". CTV News, February 2, 2017.
  14. ^ "Sadaf Foroughi's 'Ava' wins best first feature film from Canadian Screen Awards". National Post, January 31, 2018.
  15. ^ "Mina Walking Honoured with Inaugural Discovery Award". Cision, January 19, 2016.
  16. ^ "Randall Okita to receive inaugural John Dunning Discovery Award". Playback, January 12, 2017.
  17. ^ "Northern Banner picks up Cory Bowles’ Black Cop". Playback, April 25, 2018.
  18. ^ Norman Wilner, "Canadian Screen Awards 2020: Prepare for a Schitt's show". Now, February 18, 2020.