‘Juno’ drama all for naught

Every year there seems to be drama over what makes a film Canadian enough to compete at the Genie Awards (a.k.a Canada's Oscars).

This time around, there's debate over Juno's lack of inclusion.

The Academy Award-nominated teen pregnancy dramedy made stars out of Canadians Ellen Page and Jason Reitman — and it's Reitman who first raised the issue at a Canadian Oscar luncheon about the Genies snubbing the film.

"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 [Eastern Promises] 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."

We'll never really know because Juno wasn't submitted to the Genies in order to qualify.

"Regrettably, the filmmakers decided not to enter the film into the Genie Awards," said Sara Morton, CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, in a statement. "Ultimately, it's up to the filmmaker to decide whether to seek Canadian certification. It would not be appropriate for me to speculate about the reasons for a filmmaker's decision, or why they may or may not qualify."

Of course, that doesn't mean that Juno would have necessarily qualified. Canadian film requirements are often criticized for being arbitrary and byzantine.

In order for a film to be deemed Canadian, it's up to the CRTC and the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office (CAVCO). CAVCO uses a context points-based system — one that sometimes shuts out films like Juno, but allows non-Canadians like Viggo Mortensen, Julie Christie and Danny Glover to be nominated for Genies.

For example — beware this text may cause drowsiness — at least six points need to be awarded to " key creative people qualifying as Canadian" such as the director all the way down to the editor. Also "at least 75 per cent of all production costs must be paid to Canadians… at least 75 per cent of post-production processing and final preparation (Lab) costs must be paid for services provided in Canada."

And those are just the basic requirements for Canadian recognition.

"These are the accepted industry standards for recognizing a film as Canadian," Morton added in her statement.

But I suppose before one complains about these standards, perhaps one should enter the contest first, eh?

The 28th annual Genie Awards are being held in Toronto on Monday, March 3rd. The gala will be telecast on the E! Television Network in Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta, and nationally on the IFC digital cable channel.

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About Robert J. Ballantyne

Robert J.Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star.

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