Int’l co-prods nab largest share of Canuck Genies

'Sunshine' leads with 14 noms, 'Felicia' follows with 10

MONTREAL — Two high-profile international co-productions lead the way in the race for the Genie Awards, Canada’s equivalent of the Academy Awards, with Hungarian helmer Istvan Szabo’s “Sunshine” garnering 14 nominations and Canuck auteur Atom Egoyan’s “Felicia’s Journey” nabbing 10 nominations.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, which runs the Genies, loosened the rules earlier this year to let minority Canadian co-productions compete in all categories, including best picture. Both “Sunshine” and “Felicia’s Journey” are minority Canuck co-productions: “Sunshine,” an epic tale chronicling several generations of a Jewish family in Hungary, is a Canadian-German-Austrian-Hungarian co-prod, while “Felicia’s Journey” is a British-Canadian co-production.

The nominations for the 20th annual Genie Awards were announced at press conferences in Montreal and Toronto Tuesday. The ceremony is set to take place Jan. 30 in Toronto.

Foreign invasion

Thanks to the strong showing of “Sunshine” and “Felicia’s Journey,” there are plenty of non-Canadians in the running for Genie statuettes.

In the race for the best actress Genie, four of the five nominees are not from the Great White North: including Irish thesp Elaine Cassidy from “Felicia’s Journey”; U.K. thesps Rosemary Harris and Jennifer Ehle from “Sunshine”; and American actress Mary-Louise Parker from Canuck pic “The Five Senses.”

The lone Canuck actress competing is Quebec’s Sylvie Moreau for “Post Mortem.”

Two U.K. stars are up for the best actor Genie: “Sunshine” lead Ralph Fiennes and “Felicia’s” Bob Hoskins. The Canuck thesps in the race for best actor honors include Gabriel Arcand for “Post Mortem,” Denis Bouchard and Joel-Drapeau-Dalpe for Quebec kidpic “Histoires d’Hiver” and Daniel MacIvor from “The Five Senses.”

U.K. actor James Frain and the U.S.’s William Hurt, both from “Sunshine,” are in the running for the best supporting actor Genie, alongside Canuck thesps Gabriel Arcand (“Le Grand Serpent du Monde”); Alex Ivanovici (“Histoires d’Hiver”); and former Kid in the Hall Mark McKinney (“Dog Park”).

British thesp Rachel Weisz received a nomination in the category of best supporting actress for “Sunshine.” The four Canucks in the same category are Suzanne Champagne (“Histoires d’Hiver”); Catherine O’Hara (“The Life Before This”); Deborah Kara Unger (“Sunshine”); and Kathryn Zenna (“Jack & Jill”).

The most-nominated pics following “Sunshine” and “Felicia’s” were Toronto helmer Jeremy Podeswa’s “The Five Senses” with nine nods, French-language hockey pic “Histoires d’Hiver” with seven nominations and Quebec arthouse item “Post Mortem” with five nominations.

The films up for best picture honors are high-tech game thriller “eXistenZ,” “Felicia’s Journey,” ensemble comic-drama “The Five Senses,” “Histoires d’Hiver,” “Post Mortem” and “Sunshine.”

The race for best director includes Louis Belanger (“Post Mortem”), Egoyan, Podeswa, Pool and Szabo. Alliance Atlantis Motion Pictures financed and has world rights to the three leading nominees, “Sunshine,” “Felicia’s Journey” and “The Five Senses.”

Several major Canadian films did not fare well in the Genie nominations. David Cronenberg’s pricey virtual-reality pic “eXistenZ” only garnered three nominations, Lea Pool’s acclaimed “Emporte-Moi” (which is Canada’s official foreign-language Oscar submission) nabbed a paltry two nods, and big-budget Pierce Brosnan biopic “Grey Owl” came away with a lone nomination — for best costume design.

Ten helmers are in the running for the Claude Jutra Award, awarded to a director of a first feature. The nominees are Louise Belanger, John Doyle (“Extraordinary Visitor”), Franco Dragone (“Alegria”), Jean-Philippe Duval (“Matroni et Moi”), Mary Jane Gomes (“Angel in a Cage”), John Kalangis (“Jack & Jill”), Rob King (“Something More”), Bruce McCulloch (“Dog Park”), Stephen Reynolds (“The Divine Ryans”) and Curtis Wehrfritz (“Four Days”).

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