A few weeks ago, with little fanfare, two of Canada's most recognizable awards ceased to exist.
Don't worry; the powers that be haven't changed the name of the Stanley Cup or anything, but Canadian film and TV fans might be a little upset at this news. Earlier this month the Genies and the Geminis -- for decades, two of the nation's most important arts prizes for film and television -- officially became a thing of the past with the arrival of the Canadian Screen Awards.
Though it has been known since last year that such a change was coming for the Genies and Geminis, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (which was responsible for both the now-defunct award shows) formally unveiled the new combined film and TV awards ceremony on Jan. 15, simultaneously announcing the first ever CSA nominees.
Unsurprisingly, Montreal filmmaker Kim Nguyen's acclaimed (and Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee) "Rebelle" ("War Witch") cleaned up. The film is nominated for a total of twelve CSAs, including Best Motion Picture, Achievement in Direction, and Best Actress. French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan also showed well: The young director's transgender drama "Laurence Anyways" is nominated for ten awards. Meanwhile, Deepa Mehta's adaptation of the Salman Rushdie novel "Midnight's Children" rounded out the top three with eight nominations total.
The awards shake up is all well and good, but the real question remains: will this new merged film and TV prize help the consistently struggling Canadian entertainment biz find an audience at home (that is, outside of Quebec)? Consolidating the Genies and Geminis under one banner and one roof certainly makes a lot of sense on paper, for both the organizers and prospective broadcast viewers. The Canadian entertainment industry will now have one big night to celebrate the previous year in film and television -- an evening that can only have its profile increased by the concentration of Canuck talent in attendance. And television viewers will now only have to sit through one long, overblown, awards ceremony per year. It's the proverbial hitting of two birds with a single stone!
But will the CSAs really help English-Canadian films? It's hard to say. Much as they did at the Genies in previous years, Quebec films dominate the 2013 Canadian Screen Award nominations. As long as la belle province's film industry continues to thrive, it's hard to imagine that simply revamping an annual award show would do much to bolster the film industry in the rest of Canada.
Michael Dowse's hockey comedy "Goon" was deservedly recognized in the acting and directing categories, but other well-received English-language films like "Cosmopolis" and "Antiviral" failed to be nominated outside of the CSA's more technical categories. Certainly director Kate Melville's film festival darling "Picture Day" and its star Tatiana Maslany would have deserved consideration had it even been able to find a distributor, but until movies like those can truly find an audience in their home and native land -- and compete on the world stage like their Quebecois counterparts -- winning awards should be the least of their concern. Baby steps.
The Canadian Screen Awards (hosted by Martin Short) will air on CTV on March 3.