‘Absolutely incredible’: Nova Scotia’s Ben Proudfoot wins Oscar for short documentary

Pop Culture

Halifax-born filmmaker Ben Proudfoot says it’s “hard to believe” he’s now a two-time Oscar winner.

The 33-year-old and his co-director Kris Bowers won the best short documentary trophy for “The Last Repair Shop” at a star-studded ceremony Sunday that included a spirited performance of the “Barbie” power ballad “I’m Just Ken” by Canadian actor Ryan Gosling.

“It feels absolutely incredible,” Proudfoot said on call from Los Angeles shortly after the win.

“This is such a victory for arts and music education in Los Angeles and around the world. We are absolutely thrilled, and we are very hopeful that this will mark a new chapter for music education.”

“The Last Repair Shop” tells the story of a Los Angeles workshop that offers free instruments, and free repairs, to public school students.

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“L.A. is one of the last cities in America to give public school students free and freely repaired instruments. We need to fix that because musical education isn’t just about creating incredible musicians, it’s about creating incredible humans,” Bowers said during the acceptance speech.

This marks Proudfoot’s second Oscar after winning a trophy in 2022 for the short doc “The Queen of Basketball,” about the late basketball trailblazer Lusia (Lucy) Harris.

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“I could never have imagined it,” Proudfoot said about winning another Academy Award.

“But the films we make are really designed to lift up people and lift up perspectives that don’t get enough attention, and these awards represent a flood of stories that other people find important.”

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Proudfoot and Bowers were joined on stage by Porche Brinker, an 11-year-old violinist who appears in the film.

“Porche was over the moon. She was thrilled. It was an incredible moment out of my wildest dreams,” said Proudfoot.

Proudfoot added that he and the film’s crew planned to celebrate at Vanity Fair’s Oscars after-party. He also planned to return to Halifax to celebrate in his hometown.

“I’m coming back for a very large donair soon.”

The evening also saw Gosling take the stage to perform the Oscar-nominated song “I’m Just Ken.”

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Dressed in a hot pink suit and sunglasses, the Cornwall, Ont. native began the performance seated in the audience before hitting the stage, where he was joined by Mark Ronson, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash and a group of dancers who included fellow Canadian and “Barbie” co-star Simu Liu.

Late Toronto musician Robbie Robertson and actor Matthew Perry were included in the In Memoriam segment honouring deceased stars.

Other Canadians on hand included Catherine O’Hara and Brendan Fraser, who each presented awards.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2024.

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