Monday April 12th was the 30th Annual Genie Awards. The show was broadcast on IFC and was webcast on cbc.ca, for Canadians who don't have access to the specialized movie channel. It will be rebroadcast on May 9th on Mfest and Movie Central.
From 1979 to 2003, the Genie Awards were aired on the CBC. Since, the ceremony gradually lost its luster and much of its interest from the general public. Its current telecaster, IFC Films, is a leading U.S. distributor of independent and foreign films.
The Québécois counterpart to the Canadian ceremony is called Les Jutra. It was created in 1999 and, in contrast to the Genie, has experienced much success. Its last installment aired March 28th and attracted 950,000 viewers. It ranked at #11 that week, according to BBM measurements.
This year's Genie Awards were surprising. It ignored Québec's most talked about movie of the year, J'ai tué ma mère. It was Xavier Dolan's first attempt, a young man who turned 20 during the production of the film. It collected many awards around the world, including three at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It was also chosen to represent Canada at the Oscars.
The success of Québécois movies has taken a lot of room at the Genie Awards in recent years. This year's big winner, Polytechnique, won in nine of the 11 categories in which it was nominated, including best film, best direction and best original screenplay. Such success casts shadow to the influence of Canadian movies the award was designed to help promote, thinks Hussain Amarshi, CEO of Mongrel Media, one of Canada's leading film distribution companies. "Politics has nothing to do with this." He claims. "My perspective is simply realistic."
The Canadian movie industry is intricately embedded in its North American reality. There are plenty of successful Canadians in the movie business, but the concept of an exclusively Canadian movie industry is fragile. Should the Genie Awards be limited to English-language movies only? What about French-language production from outside Québec?... where would they fit? Would such a direction really help homegrown movies gain momentum at the box office?
Québec and other provinces going their separate ways seems to be the natural trend in cultural affairs in recent years. Is it still possible to be French and Canadian?