in focus


Any film awards show overlooks good movies. But among the glaring omissions at the Genies — Canada's film awards to be doled out March 3 — is "Juno," an indie film by Canadian director Jason Reitman that has taken the boxoffice by storm and made Oscar headlines.

The comedy about a 16-year-old girl's pregnant path to enlightenment stars Ellen Page and Michael Cera, both Canadian, and was shot in Vancouver.

But don't blame Genie voters for the snub. The rule book for Canada's film awards requires that some of a film's production budget must come from Canada for it to be deemed a Canadian film.

Because L.A.-based Mandate Pictures developed and financed "Juno" and Fox Searchlight released the comedy, the Genies considers the film American and thus ineligible for competition.

Canada's film awards really falls down the rabbit hole into Wonderland when you consider that "Eastern Promises," a British film about a Russian mob family in London, and directed by hired-gun Canadian David Cronenberg, will contend for best Canadian film at the Genies.

Reitman, attending a pre-Oscars luncheon Feb. 22 at the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles, told reporters he was puzzled why his film did not get through the Genies' red tape while "Eastern Promises" did.

"It's a Canadian director, Canadian stars, Canadian cast, Canadian crew, shot in Canada — how are we not eligible for a Genie when David Cronenberg's film about Russians living in London shot in England with a British crew and British cast is eligible? I'm sorry, but somebody is going to have to explain that to me; I don't get it," he said, with proud father Ivan Reitman at his side.

Well, "Eastern Promises" is a British film. But because the film's co-producer, Toronto-based Serendipity Point Films, steered enough Canadian government financing to make up about 20% of Cronenberg's production budget, the Genies dipped "Eastern Promises" in maple syrup and gave it 12 nominations.

The message: Leave it to other awards shows to honor filmmaking excellence, whatever its origins. The Genies celebrate government support, and in apparent defiance against Hollywood interests that dominate the film production and distribution sectors in Canada.

Canadian directors and talent that thrive because Hollywood shoots its movies and TV projects here barely raised a whimper over any of this.

It's high time the Genies put Canadian directors against all comers in a best-film competition rather than try to explain what the Canadian film category means and why an indie hit by a Canadian director should end up in the cold.

Etan Vlessing can be reached at