Atanarjuat steals the Genies show

As anticipated, the night of the 22nd annual Genie Awards belonged to Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), the Igloolik Isuma Productions/National Film Board Inuit drama shot on digital video. Those criteria would otherwise make the film’s capture of six Genies a major upset, but the movie had already won awards at Toronto, Cannes, Edinburgh and Flanders. At the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Feb. 7, it added to its hardware case the Genies for best motion picture, direction, screenplay, editing, score and the Claude Jutra Award for best first director.

Atanarjuat, the first feature ever made in the Inuktitut language, tells the story of the title character, who ends up in a conflict with Oki, the son of his camp leader, over the affections of the lovely Atuat. The movie was Canada’s official selection for the Academy Awards in the foreign-language category, although it did not make the final cut. Toronto’s Cinemavault Releasing recently acquired worldwide rights to the film.

Director Zacharias Kunuk, at the podium four times (he was also one of the editors), spoke mostly in his native Inuit tongue. He thanked his parents and tribal elders, and later said that in a couple of days he would be back up north ‘hunting with the pros.’

The evening’s most touching moment came when Krista Uttak accepted the screenplay award on behalf of her father, writer Paul Apak Angilirq, who passed away from cancer.

‘This is a wonderful tribute to my father’s work,’ she said.

English-language films were noticeably not dominant at this year’s ceremony. The one that did have the highest profile success was Last Wedding, directed by B.C.’s Bruce Sweeney. Although the dark relationship comedy’s ensemble cast was rewarded with the trophies for actor in a supporting role (Vincent Gale) and actress in a supporting role (Molly Parker), that did not totally remove the sting of the film’s absence among the best motion picture and achievement in direction nominees.

‘Everybody was angry,’ said Gale, Genie in hand. ‘There’s no joy in Mudville. It’s all about Bruce.’

The best actress category was won by Elise Guilbault for her portrayal of an alcoholic in La femme qui boit (The Woman Who Drinks), a Quebec film that has not been widely seen outside its home province.

‘I am sincerely stunned and very happy,’ Guilbault said in French.

The show, broadcast on CBC and hosted by TV interviewer Brian Linehan, featured several Quebec presenters, including David La Haye (nominated for best actor for Un Crabe dans la tete), who charmed the crowd with his scouting for potential mates. He was upstaged, however, by Patrick Huard, who is unknown in English Canada but a star in la belle province for his appearances in the phenomenally successful Les Boys films. Huard played on the evening’s cultural divide, commenting that ‘You [English Canadians] don’t know about our movies and culture, and there’s not much to know about yours.’ The mostly English audience ate it up.

The best actor prize was nabbed by up-and-comer Brendan Fletcher for his performance alongside Sarah Polley in The Law of Enclosures, a little-seen drama directed by John Greyson that traces 40 years in the lives of a couple permanently stuck in the year 1991.

‘This is extremely surreal, to the point I’m not even here right now,’ the young actor told reporters afterwards.

The War Bride, a Prairie drama set during World War 2, was tied for the most nominations with seven, and ended up winning two, for art direction/production design and costume design. Treed Murray, a Toronto drama about a Bay Street executive chased up a tree by a band of thugs, likewise won two awards, for overall sound and sound editing. Eisenstein, writer/director Renny Bartlett’s dramatic depiction of the life of Soviet cinema hero Sergei Eisenstein, surprised many with its six nominations, but failed to win any awards. Lost and Delirious, Quebec director Lea Pool’s sexy first foray into English features, received one award, for cinematography for Montrealer Pierre Gill.

The Genie Awards are a presentation of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

Following is the complete list of this year’s Genie winners:

Best Motion Picture: Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) – Producers: Norman Cohn, Paul Apak Angilirq, Zacharias Kunuk, Germaine Ying-Gee Wong

Achievement in Direction: Zacharias Kunuk – Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)

Best Screenplay: Paul Apak Angilirq – Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Brendan Fletcher – The Law of Enclosures

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Elise Guilbault – La femme qui boit (The Woman Who Drinks)

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Vincent Gale – Last Wedding

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Molly Parker – Last Wedding

Achievement in Cinematography: Pierre Gill – Lost and Delirious

Achievement in Editing: Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk, Marie-Christine Sarda – Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)

Achievement in Music – Original Score: Chris Crilly – Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)

Achievement in Music – Original Song: Ron Sexsmith – The Art of Woo ‘Love is Free’

Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design: Ken Rempel – The War Bride

Achievement in Costume Design: Howard Burden – The War Bride

Achievement in Overall Sound: Todd Beckett, Christian Carruthers, Herwig Gayer, Bisa Scekic, Todd Warren – Treed Murray

Achievement in Sound Editing: Joseph Bracciale, Kevin Banks, Stephen Barden, John Sievert, Virginia Storey – Treed Murray

Best Documentary: Westray – Kent Martin, Paul Cowan

Best Live Action Short Drama: The Heart of the World – Guy Maddin, Jody Shapiro

Best Animated Short: The Boy Who Saw the Iceberg – Marcy Page, Paul Driessen