Despite accolades, pix struggle for screens

MONTREAL — Highlighting the problems facing Canadian film, the two leading nominees for the Genie Awards do not have distribution here in the Great White North. The nominations for the 22nd annual Genie Awards, Canada’s film awards, were unveiled Wednesday. In addition, none of the leading nominated pics have benefited from a major national launch.

Inuit feature “Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)”, which nabbed the Camera d’Or for best first feature at Cannes this year, and Canadian-British co-production “The War Bride” lead the race for Genie statuettes, with seven nods each. Neither pic has inked a deal with a Canadian distributor yet.

Inuit helmer Zacharias Kunuk’s “Atanarjuat” played for four weeks this fall on one-screen at the Ex-Centris art-house complex in Montreal and filmmaker Lyndon Chubbuck’s “The War Bride” is currently playing in three cities thanks to the Toronto Intl. Film Festival Group’s Film Circuit, which books pics in non-commercial venues.

“Atanarjuat” is a poetic epic shot entirely in the far north of Canada and is based on a legendary Inuit tale. An Igloolik Isuma/National Film Board of Canada production, “Atanarjuat” is set to be released in the U.S. next June by Lot 47 and is also due on-screens in the coming months in France, England and Holland. “The War Bride” is set in 1940 London and is the story of two British seamstresses who fall in love with a pair of Canadian servicemen.

The Genie Awards will be handed out in Toronto on Feb. 7.

Helmer Bruce Sweeney’s ensemble comedy “Last Wedding,” which opened this year’s Toronto Intl. Film Festival, nabbed six Genie nominations, including best pic and nods for supporting actors (Vincent Gale, Tom Scholte) and supporting actresses (Marya Delver, Molly Parker). Biopic “Eisenstein” from helmer Renny Bartlett; Bernard Emond’s French-language drama “The Woman Who Drinks” (La Femme Qui Boit); and William Phillips’s “Treed Murray” each garnered five nominations, including top pic. Andre Turpin’s “Un Crabe dans la Tete,” which is currently doing well at the box office in Quebec, drew four nominations, including best pic.

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