Genies grant Quebec’s Wish

Genie Award Winners

ª Best Motion Picture

Maelstrˆm - Roger Frappier, Luc Vandal

ª Achievement in Direction

Denis Villeneuve - Maelstrˆm

ª Best Screenplay

Denis Villeneuve - Maelstrˆm

ª Best Actor

Tony Nardi - My Father's Angel

ª Best Actress

Marie-JosŽe Croze - Maelstrˆm

ª Best Supporting Actor

Martin Cummins - Love Come Down

ª Best Supporting Actress

Helen Shaver - We All Fall Down

January 30, 2001


The Canadian film industry honoured its own last night at the 21st annual Genie awards ceremony, held in Toronto, Ontario. Quebec films swept nearly all of the major awards, with Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve's Maelstrˆm garnering five Genies.

Claude Jutra award recipient Phillipe Falardeau (La MoitŽ gauche du Frigo) summed up the Quebec situation (and cracked up the audience) with his comparison of Canadian film to beer.

“I've been asked again and again, 'What is a Canadian film?'” he said, “Well, I think Canadian films are like beer: there are some fine local products, but it's tough to get them across the borders of the provinces.”

It was definitely one province's night to shine. Quebec won big at this year's Genies, with Quebec productions and actors bagging the greatest number of awards. In addition to the Claude Jutra award, the best picture, screenplay, actress, director, and cinematography awards also went to a Quebec film, Denis Villeneuve's eerie Maelstrˆm.

“This film was for me a perfect example of the kind of film I love to make. It's a very personal way to approach cinema and at the same time it tries to reach a wide audience,” he said after receiving his best director award.

Maelstrˆm is a surreal film that follows a young businesswoman's bizarre journey after she kills a man in a hit-and-run accident. The film is narrated by talking fish that face death on the chopping block, and features lots of aquatic imagery.

In addition to best picture and director, Maelstrˆm also picked up best screenplay, best cinematography and best actress awards. It is also Canada's entry for the best foreign film award at this year's Oscars.

The other big winner this year was ClŽment Virgo's gritty family drama Love Come Down, which took home three awards, including best actor (Martin Cummins), best sound, and best sound-editing.

As expected, there was a brief tribute to actor Al Waxman, who passed away two weeks ago. Maria Topalovich, president of the Academy of Cinema and Television delivered a short, but moving tribute to Waxman which culminated in a standing ovation.

“He was, without a question, a star,”

Not everything was rosy at this year's awards, however. It was evident even before the first award was presented that the night would basically be a self-esteem day for Canadian films. Almost all of the nominated films have had little national exposure or play, and most of the awards were presented to French films screened mainly in Quebec.

As if to hammer home the scant effect Canadian film has on home box-office receipts, the Golden Reel award (for best box office sales in Canada) was awarded to The Art of War, which stars Wesley Snipes. After being presented, the award triggered a heated debate backstage as to whether it qualifies as a Canadian film. It was shot in Montreal, but is essentially a big-budget American production.

The film made $4.5 million in Canada, and over $30 million in the United States.

One of the highlights of the show was a performance by Toronto singer/songwriter Sarah Harmer, and the award speech by Ron Mann, who won the best documentary award for his film Grass, a pro-marijuana picture which examines the hysteria surrounding the contentious plant.

“This is a natural high,” he quipped. “I make films about subjects I like. I like marijuana a lot.”

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