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Genie noms sweet to ‘Hereafter’

MONTREAL — Toronto-based writer-director Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter,” far and away the highest-profile Canuck pic of the year, is the leading nominee for this year’s Genie Awards, the annual Canadian film awards.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced Tuesday that “The Sweet Hereafter” garnered 16 Genie nominations, including nods for best picture, best direction and screenplay, along with two in the leading actress category (Sarah Polley, Gabrielle Rose) and two for lead actor (Ian Holm, Bruce Greenwood).

Egoyan’s pic, a dark drama examining the aftermath of a bus crash on a small town, had its world preem at the Cannes Film Festival. The Alliance-produced film, which also unspooled at the Toronto and New York fests, is presently playing commercially across Canada, and Fine Line Features is set to open the pic in New York and Los Angeles Nov. 21, with a wider U.S. release scheduled for Dec. 24.

Egoyan’s previous feature, “Exotica,” cleaned up at the Genie Awards in 1994, winning eight trophies.

The 18th Genie Awards will be held in Toronto on Dec. 14. The ceremony has been broadcast live on the national CBC network, but after years of lackluster ratings, CBC has opted out of the broadcast this year. Instead, the specialty Bravo cable channel will show the Genies the night following the ceremony.

The closest contenders to “The Sweet Hereafter” in the Genies horse-race are Halifax helmer Thom Fitzgerald’s “The Hanging Garden” and Montreal director Gabriel Pelletier’s vampire satire, “Karmina,” each earning 11 nominations. Vancouver helmer Lynne Stopkewich’s necrophilia pic “Kissed” was nominated in eight Genie categories.

The gay-themed “Hanging Garden,” which was recently picked-up for U.S. release by MGM, was nominated for best picture, direction, screenplay (Fitzgerald), supporting actor (Peter MacNeill), and for three supporting actresses (Kerry Fox, Seanna McKenna, Joan Orenstein). It is a dark, comic tale of a young gay man’s return to his Halifax home after a 10-year absence.

“Karmina’s” nominations included nods in the categories of best picture, direction, screenplay (Ann Burke, Andree Pelletier, Gabriel Pelletier, Yves Pelletier) and lead actress (Isabelle Cyr).

“Kissed,” which was released earlier this year in the U.S. by Goldwyn, was nominated for best picture, direction, screenplay (Stopkewich, Angus Fraser), best actress (Molly Parker), and best actor (Peter Outerbridge). The debut feature from writer-director Stopkewich is a low-budget portrait of a young woman (Parker) obsessed with getting it on with male cadavers.

The only other pic in the running for the best picture statuette is “Cosmos,” the hip, black-and-white omnibus offering from six young Quebec helmers.

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