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Maudie's world: a major film could drive Nova Scotia tourism with the life of painter Maud Lewis

The inside of Maud Lewis' home on display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
The inside of Maud Lewis' home on display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

When Oscar season comes around next year, there's a good chance the woman portraying a historical figure from Nova Scotia is nominated for the biggest prize in Hollywood.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Sally Hawkins gets a best actress nomination,” said Atlantic Film Festival (AFF) executive director Wayne Carter about Maudie, a film they premiered at the 2016 festival that’s hitting the big screen of three Canadian cities on Friday.

“She’s been nominated for Academy Awards before,” said Carter. “She’s a well-established actress.”

Maudie is a film about the life of folk painter Maud Lewis, who lived in Digby. The film stars English Actor Sally Hawkins as Maud, and American Ethan Hawke as Everett Lewis.

Everyone at the AFF knew it was a top-drawer film, said Carter.

“We’re not surprised it has done so well,” said Carter. “It can get even bigger with all the screen time at festivals over the summer.”

Maudie opens in select theatres in Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver on Friday.

Although Lewis lived her entire life in N.S., Maudie is filmed in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Carter said successful films like Maudie help promote the east coast as filming locations.

“Any film that is made here, it becomes a calling card for the area,” said Carter. “When films are shown internationally, they become ambassadors to the areas film industry.”

Along with promoting the local film industry, Maudie depicts many locations in N.S. and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) has 40 of Lewis’ paintings - as well as the house she lived in.

The success of the film outside of Canada could help with the region’s tourism, said Carter.

“We get a lot of international tourists on cruises, the success of Maudie in other markets could help promote the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia,” said Carter. “It also shows the beautiful scenery of the region.”

Along with opening in theatres Friday, Maudie will continue to play at film festivals all over the world.

Nancy Noble, director and CEO of AGNS, said there could be a boost in visits to the gallery due to the film.

“Because of the size of N.S., people can come see her paintings and her house, then drive over to where she lived in Digby for lunch,” said Noble.

Lewis received no formal training, and her arthritis limited the size of her paintings, yet she’s one of the best known Canadian folk painters, said Noble.

“We have the biggest public collection of her work,” said Noble. “People like her paintings because they are so bright, and accessible to people.”

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