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Emma Donoghue wins Golden Box Office Award, donates $20,000 prize to ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival

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ImagineNATIVE executive director Jason Ryle and head of community sponsorships Audrey Rochette flanking Donoghue at the Golden Box Office Awards. Photo via ImagineNATIVE.org.

ImagineNATIVE executive director Jason Ryle and head of community sponsorships Audrey Rochette flanking Donoghue at the Golden Box Office Awards (photo:ImagineNATIVE.org)

Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue has surprised ImagineNATIVE, a Toronto film and media-arts festival, by donating $20,000 of her personal award money to its efforts celebrating and promoting work by indigenous artists worldwide.

On March 14, Donoghue received the Telefilm Canada Golden Box Office Award for the film adaptation of her novel Room, for which she wrote the screenplay. The award recognizes the Canadian director and screenwriter of an English-language feature film that performed well in sales the year prior.

The $20,000 gift is the largest single donation the charitable organization has received since its launch in 1999. ImagineNATIVE festival initiatives manager Daniel Northway-Frank says the staff was ecstatically surprised and even questioned the donation’s authenticity, as Donoghue connected with them through their general “info” email address.

“You know, you get so many of those ‘You’ve won a million dollars’ spam messages, so we were thinking, ‘Is this real?’ She had never been involved with us. It was completely unexpected,” says Northway-Frank. “She was looking to support a charitable organization that brings diversity to film, saw us and what we did, and decided that we were the people to donate it to.”

Northway-Frank says the money won’t be tied to any specific project, but will fund the organization’s general initiatives, in particular those which especially interest Donoghue. The team looks forward to introducing the author to the festival when she attends for the first time in October.

“We’re super excited about it and what it means to be recognized by someone really making their mark in the larger Canadian industry. We’re hoping for a lot of good feedback from it [and that] we can work with her in whatever way she feels appropriate,” says Northway-Frank. “We’re just taking this as a really great sign that the work that we’ve been doing is worthwhile. Every year and everything you do still matters because you never know who might be looking at it.”