Jul 17, 2024

Catherine Hernandez wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of her novel.

The widely acclaimed novel Scarborough by Canadian Filipino author Catherine Hernandez has been adapted into a movie that premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Hernandez wrote the screenplay for the 136-minute movie of the same title, which made its TIFF debut last September 10.

The novel and movie are named after Scarborough, a Toronto suburb known for its racial and economic diversity.

Scarborough, which was directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson, had three other screenings scheduled on September 11, 14 and 18.

A report by the Toronto paper NOW Magazine noted that Hernandez and Nakhai “knew each other for years through the Filipino community”.

“Nakhai, who is Filipino-Iranian, worked with Hernandez on her student film Baby Not Mine (2009), which is about Filipino caregivers. They later partnered up with Williamson, who is Nakhai’s professional and life partner, on Paruparo (2013), a dance short commissioned by Reel Asian,” the magazine related.

The NOW Magazine report also stated that “so much of Scarborough is moulded from Hernandez’s memories and experiences”.

“She wrote the novel after fleeing a dangerous situation with her daughter. They lived in precarious housing. She started up a home daycare so that she could make a living while being present as a single mother,” the paper reported.

“When you’re living out here, the measurements of success are very different,” Hernandez also said in the report.

The Canadian Filipino writer continued, “During the time I was writing the book, the measurement of success was: Can I make rent? Am I not searching the ground for change to buy a dozen eggs? Is my car not breaking down? To me success was I bought a $2 can of Rust-Oleum and sprayed it on my Grand Caravan, hoping that if I sprayed long enough that it was going to turn into a Mercedes-Benz. That was my success back then.”

Hernandez was a subject of a Canadian Filipino Net report in 2017.

At the time, she and another author, Eleanor Guerrero-Campbell, were among eight Asian Canadian writers featured in that year’s LiterASIAN Literary Festival held in Vancouver from September 21 to 24.

This publication’s report noted that Hernandez is a “proud queer woman of colour, prolific playwright, theatre practitioner, activist, children’s book author, artistic director and former owner of a daycare run out of her home”.

In that daycare saw the beginnings of Scarborough, her debut novel.

In January 2020, Canadian Filipino Net reported that national broadcaster CBC listed 18 of its best picture books of 2019, and one of these was by Hernandez.

Hernandez’s I Promise made it to the CBC Books list in December 2019, with her work marking her return to the world of children’s books.

On its website, the TIFF stated that the movie Scarborough tells the story of three kids in a low-income neighbourhood, who “find friendship and community in an unlikely place”.

“Adapted from the critically acclaimed novel by Catherine Hernandez, Scarborough is an unflinching portrait of three low-income families struggling to endure within a system that’s set them up for failure. It shows the love and perseverance communities can foster, lifting up families to overcome the obstacles placed in their way,” the film festival’s writeup noted.

Also, “Scarborough offers a raw yet empathetic glimpse into a diverse community that finds its dignity in unexpected places: a collective refusal to be fractured by individual challenges and instead be brought together through kindness and solidarity.”

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