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Egoyan’s ‘Ararat’ tops Genie noms
TORONTO — Leading a pack of movies described as “an extraordinary reflection of the diversity of filmmaking in this country,” Atom Egoyan’s Ararat has been honoured with nine Genie Award nominations, including best picture.
The 23rd annual Genies, given for the best in home-grown cinema, will be handed out at a televised gala Feb. 13. Ararat is the story of a director trying to make a film in Toronto about the Armenian massacre of the First World War.
The other best-picture nominees include Bollywood/Hollywood, Deepa Mehta’s hilarious blend of Indian and North American cinema culture; Quebec-Montreal, a road picture and first-time feature from francophone director Ricardo Trogi; Rare Birds, Sturla Gunnarsson’s Newfoundland comedy about a frustrated restaurateur; and Suddenly Naked, Anne Wheeler’s sexy May-September romance from the West Coast.
“Each story is told from a different part of Canada,” noted Maria Topalovich, president and CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, at a Tuesday news conference. “We also see emerging filmmakers and performers nominated alongside established veterans.”
Other leading nominees include Savage Messiah, a made-for-TV movie based on the real events surrounding a murderous Canadian cult leader and which played theatrically in Quebec; and Between Strangers, the Sophia Loren heart-tugger filmed in Toronto by her son Eduardo Ponti.
Missing from the list this year are those so-called industrially Canadian features, films shot in Canada by Canadian crews but which are internationally generic in nature.
Paul Gratton, vice-president of the academy’s cinema division, noted how Ararat had been fraught with controversy because of its subject matter, but that rumours of Turkish protests just faded away.
“When the film was revealed at Cannes, it was something entirely different than what people expected,” Gratton said. “In typical Egoyan fashion, it became a sort of rumination on the nature of history and memory and how we filter our collective memories.”
David Alpay, the young University of Toronto student making his acting debut in Ararat, was on hand to help read the nominations list. He said he found out only that morning that he was nominated in the best-actor category along with co-star Christopher Plummer.
“I hope he wins, he’s absolutely incredible in the film,” Alpay said. “I’m just in awe, right? I’m a fan, I’m a movie fan, I watch movies all the time, so for me this is like, wow, this is great. I still feel a little disconnected from the whole thing.”
Asked what he hopes Ararat will accomplish, Alpay, who like Egoyan is of Armenian heritage, said the film resonates deeply within him, which he finds emotionally fulfilling. But he had no idea why the protests dissipated, insisting he’s excluded from those circles.
“You never know what to expect. You hope people have an open mind, that they go and they really think about things critically and don’t just jump in.”
Alpay says he’s focusing on school right now and not thinking about reports that he has an acting career ahead of him as a result of his breakout performance in Ararat.
“There’s so much to do right now. I’ve gotta get through school, gotta finish this year with good marks and . . . if something pops up and it looks good, it would be nice to read it and take a look.”
Best directors include David Cronenberg for Spider, Gunnarsson for Rare Birds, Trogi for Quebec-Montreal and Wheeler for Suddenly Naked. Egoyan was not nominated.
Also competing in the best-actor category are Luc Picard for Savage Messiah, Philip Dewilde for Turning Page and Colin Roberts for Flower & Garnet.
The best actress list includes Isabelle Blais and Polly Walker for Savage Messiah, Egoyan’s wife Arsinee Khanjian for Ararat, Molly Parker in Men With Brooms, and Deborah Kara Unger for Between Strangers.
The best supporting actress category includes Dina Pathak, the Indian actress who stole Bollywood/Hollywood with her performance as a feisty Shakespeare-quoting grandmother. Pathak, who died in October at 82, made more than 200 films in her career, including David Lean’s 1984 epic A Passage to India.
Leading nominees for the 2002 Genie Awards:
Best Film:
* Ararat (Robert Lantos, Atom Egoyan)
* Bollywood/Hollywood (David Hamilton, Bob Wertheimer)
* Quebec-Montreal (Nicole Robert)
* Rare Birds (Paul Pope, Janet York)
* Suddenly Naked (Gavin Wilding)
Best Actor:
* David Alpay (Ararat)
* Philip Dewilde (Turning Page)
* Luc Picard (Savage Messiah)
* Christopher Plummer (Ararat)
* Colin Roberts (Flower & Garnet)
Best Actress:
* Isabelle Blais (Savage Messiah)
* Arsinee Khanjian (Ararat)
* Molly Parker (Men With Brooms)
* Deborah Kara Unger (Between Strangers)
* Polly Walker (Savage Messiah)
Best Director:
* Jean Beaudin (Le Collectionneur)
* David Cronenberg (Spider)
* Sturla Gunnarsson (Rare Birds)
* Ricardo Trogi (Quebec-Montreal)
* Anne Wheeler (Suddenly Naked)