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Celine Song proud to represent Canada at Oscars with ‘Past Lives’: ‘So amazing’



Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press

Published Tuesday, January 23, 2024 2:39PM EST

Last Updated Tuesday, January 23, 2024 2:39PM EST

Canada’s Celine Song says it feels “so cool” to go from a young kid staking out stars at the Toronto International Film Festival to seeing her debut film “Past Lives” receive two Oscar nods.

“The Oscar nominations are so huge, so big,” says the writer-director, who was born in South Korea and moved to Markham, Ont., with her family when she was 12.

“But I also feel connected to myself, as a kid, taking a bus to see if I could catch George Clooney in downtown 1/8 Toronto 3/8 . Those things are contradictory, but they’re both true. I think that really is the human experience. At the end of the day, that’s what the film’s about, too.”

Song’s romantic drama, partly based on her own life, snagged best picture and best original screenplay nominations, announced Tuesday. The film is about two childhood sweethearts who attempt to reconcile the past and present as they grow apart and live different lives over the course of 24 years.

The 34-year-old Song is among several Canadians who are up for Oscars this year.

Ryan Gosling received a best supporting actor nod for his turn as Ken in the summer blockbuster “Barbie,” while “I’m Just Ken,” a power ballad he performs in the movie, nabbed a nomination in the best original song category for its writers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt.

Toronto-born musician Robbie Robertson, who died last year at age 80, was nominated for his work on the score for Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” an Osage epic that received 10 Oscar nods.

The National Film Board of Canada’s “To Kill a Tiger,” helmed by Toronto-based director Nisha Pahuja, was nominated in the best documentary feature category.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia filmmaker Ben Proudfoot is up for best short documentary for co-directing “The Last Repair Shop,” and Quebec filmmaker Vincent Rene-Lortie got a nod in the live action short category for his film, “Invincible.”

Song, who also received five Golden Globe nominations for “Past Lives,” said Tuesday in an animated conversation filled with giddy expletives that it’s been “so amazing” to see her very personal film enjoy such widespread international success.

“The whole film is really very much a question that I’m asking the audience, which is, ‘Well, I’m a person who is alive and I have felt this way before. Have you felt this before?’ And I think that the response from the audience is very much, ‘Yes, absolutely.”’

She said seeing audiences around the world connect with the film has made her feel “less lonely.”

While Song currently lives in New York, she said she still feels “very connected” to Canada and credits the country with helping to shape her as a person and an artist.

“I identify so much as a Canadian,” she said. “I think the idea of what it is to be Canadian is always changing, and that to me is the way that I really think about the film.”

Just as the “Past Lives” is about reconciling different parts of oneself, Song said Canada is where she learned to embrace the different facets of her identity.

“I don’t like thinking in terms of, ‘I am this one thing or another.’ Canada is the first place that really taught me that I can be all of these things at once, and I can also feel connected to all different parts of myself and still be accepted and be loved.”

“Past Lives” will go up against Hollywood juggernauts including “Oppenheimer,” “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Barbie” in the best picture category. Song was not a producer of the film, so is not personally nominated in the category.

In the best screenplay race, Song will compete against the writers of “Maestro,” “May December,” “The Holdovers,” “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Holdovers.”

Song said she hasn’t had a chance to think about what she’ll wear to the Oscars or who will accompany her on the red carpet. What she does know is she’s looking forward to representing Canada at the awards bash.

“I just want Canadians to be so proud and excited, and to really feel like I’m their own, because for what it’s worth, Canada’s my own.”

The 96th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, are set to air March 10 on ABC and CTV.

-With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2024.

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