Nominees for best motion picture

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La Face cachee de la lune
Producers: Bob Krupinski and Mario St-Laurent
Province of origin: Quebec

Robert Lepage, the writer/director/star of La Face…, is no stranger to the Genies. All of his previous four features have received some noms, and his debut, Le Confessional, won for best picture in 1996.

The Far Side of the Moon, as it is called in English, is based on a Lepage stage play. In the film, Lepage plays the dual roles of twins whose rivalry mirrors that of the concurrent U.S.-Soviet space race. Originated on high-definition video on a $1.6-million budget, it was shot in Quebec City early last year. It is produced by Media Principia and In Extremis Images and distributed by Film Tonic and Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm in Quebec and Odeon Films in English Canada, where it is slated for a release in April or May. The film opened in October in Quebec and took in $319,015 at the gate.

Lepage is also nominated for best actor, best direction and adapted screenplay. The film previously won the FIPRESCI Prize in the panorama section of the Berlin festival.

La Grande seduction
Produced by Roger Frappier and Luc Vandal
Province of origin: Quebec

The comedy La Grande seduction was the sleeper Canadian hit of 2003. After 35 weeks on screens, the $5.7-million production from Max Films had earned a staggering $8.2 million in ticket sales, and its release in English Canada doesn’t come until April 2, under the moniker Seducing Dr. Lewis.

The slick ensemble film by first-time feature director Jean-Francois Pouliot tells the story of St-Marie-la-Mauderne, a small fishing village where the fish no longer bite. Hope arrives when a company scouts the town as a factory location, but a successful bid requires the town to have a resident doctor. So townie Germain (Raymond Bouchard) takes it upon himself to bring in young Dr. Lewis (David Boutin) and convince him that the town is the best place to be, which necessitates a bit of a makeover.

Seduction is the most nominated film at the Genies this year with 11 noms, including best actor for Bouchard, supporting actor for Benoit Briere, direction for Pouliot and original screenplay for Ken Scott. It also led the way at the recent Prix Jutra, taking home eight trophies, and it picked up the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. It is distributed by AA Vivafilm and Odeon, and opens in the U.S. in June through Wellspring.

Les Invasions barbares
Produced by Denise Robert and Daniel Louis
Province of origin: Quebec

What more can you say about the most celebrated Canadian film of all time? Denys Arcand’s Les Invasions barbares is the first Canuck export to win for best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards, the capper on a year of prizes, and the love-fest should continue at the Genies.

The film’s momentum began at the Cannes Film Festival, where Arcand won the award for best screenplay and Marie-Josee Croze won for best actress. The film subsequently took major prizes at Toronto, Bangkok, France’s Cesars, the European Film Awards and the Prix Jutra (five trophies, including best film). Arcand was also nominated for an Oscar for original screenplay.

Invasions revisits characters from Arcand’s 1987 Oscar nominee The Decline of the American Empire. In the new film, womanizing professor Remy (Remy Girard, who is nominated) is dying of cancer, prompting a reunion with his estranged son, businessman Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau). Soon all of Remy’s ex-lovers and friends are at his bedside. Distribs AA Vivafilm and Odeon had all their prints of the film at work after the Oscar win. So far, the movie, made for about $6 million, has done about $7.1 million in Canadian box office.

Invasions is up for nine Genies, also including supporting actress for Croze, and direction and original screenplay for Arcand. It is a copro between Cinemaginaire and France’s Pyramide Productions, and is distributed in the U.S. by Miramax Films.

Owning Mahowny
Produced by Andras Hamori, Alessandro Camon and Seaton McLean
Province of origin: Ontario-based copro with the U.K.

Despite a quality cast and compelling story, Owning Mahowny, from Alliance Atlantis – when it was still making movies – and Andras Hamori in association with the U.K.’s Natural Nylon Entertainment, failed to register with a large audience. At a reported budget of $10 million, the film’s haul in the U.S. and Canada, according to Variety, is in the order of US$1 million, with a release in Australia slated for late April. Perhaps Mahowny’s four Genie nominations see the film finally getting its due.

With a Genie-nominated central performance from American indie fave Philip Seymour Hoffman (Cold Mountain, Happiness), Owning Mahowny tells the fact-inspired story of Dan Mahowny, an assistant bank manager with an addictive gambling problem that leads him to dangerous dealings with both his bank and casino. Minnie Driver plays Belinda, his girlfriend and coworker, and John Hurt is on board as casino manager Victor.

British director Richard Kwietniowski made his feature debut in 1997 with Love and Death on Long Island. Mahowny, released through Odeon in Canada and Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S., is also up for best adapted screenplay for Maurice Chauvet (see story, p. 32).

The Snow Walker
Produced by Robert Merilees and William Vince
Province of origin: British Columbia

The Snow Walker’s proper release launched only on March 5, and it has snuck in under the radar to snag nine nominations, tying it for second place with Les Invasion barbares. It stands to be the main spoiler for a Quebec-dominated Genies.

The film, made on a $10.3-million budget, is based on the short story Walk Well My Brother by Farley Mowat. It tells the story of Charlie (played by nominee Barry Pepper), a self-centered pilot in the 1950s paid to take ailing young Inuit woman Kanaalaq (newcomer Annabella Piugattuk, also nominated) back with him to Yellowknife for medical care. After his plane crashes, stranding them in the Arctic, Charlie’s prejudices are disarmed as he comes to rely on the woman for his own survival.

The Snow Walker is written and directed by Charles Martin Smith, the well-known Hollywood character actor who starred in the 1983 Mowat adaptation Never Cry Wolf. Since that time, Mowat has called Smith a ‘blood brother.’ Smith has been living in Vancouver since the 1980s, and his film benefits greatly from the presence of B.C.-born Pepper, whose breakthrough came in Saving Private Ryan. The film is produced by Vancouver’s Infinity Media, and Lions Gate Films distributes in Canada. After two weeks in an expanding release, the film has taken in $113,452 on 16 screens.

Playback Picks

Playback staff includes: Peter Vamos, Mark Dillon, Leo Rice-Barker, Sean Davidson, Laura Bracken and Ian Edwards

* Les Invasions barbares: PV, MD, SD, LB, IE

* La Grande seduction: LRB