Denis Villeneuve’s film Polytechnique beat out Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool and Benoît Pilon’s The Necessities of Life to win the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award for 2009 from the Toronto Film Critics Association. The award, handed out at a gala dinner in Toronto on January 12 by legendary Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg and Rogers Communications Vice-Chairman Phil Lind, also carries a $10,000 cash prize. During his acceptance speech Villeneuve joked he didn’t pay his Rogers bill – but can now.
Based on the true events that occurred at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique on December 6, 1989, Polytechnique was unanimously praised by critics for not exploiting the horrific event known as the “Montreal Massacre.” Earlier in the evening Maclean’s film critic and Toronto Film Critics Association president Brian D. Johnson said of the film, “Most people would think, like the Holocaust; it’s unapproachable, it’s unmakeable, it’s unadvisable. But he [Villeneuve] pulled it off and it’s a beautiful film that shows a memorial can be an act of imagination. It doesn’t fall into the pitfalls of a typical psycho-killer movie…you never find out what the guy’s motivation is.”
When asked if he was happy with the response the film has received, Villeneuve told Criticize This!, “I made the film for people in Canada as a memory. We didn’t know exactly what would happen when we released it…we thought people would throw rocks at us. We made this movie from our hearts and I’m pretty amazed by the reaction.”
Quebec writer-director Xavier Dolan picked up the inaugural Jay Scott Prize for his film J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother). The award, named after the late influential Globe and Mail critic and worth $5,000, was created to honour emerging Canadian talent in the film industry. Atom Egoyan presented Dolan with the award and had nothing but praise for him and the film, which he called “breathtaking”. Upon receiving the award Dolan said it was a “very flattering distinction” and appeared giddy over the fact he was the first to receive it.
Other awards handed out at the dinner included the Allan King Documentary Award which went to The Cove, and the Clyde Gilmour Award for advancing the appreciation of film which went to Mark Peranson, editor and publisher of Cinema Scope magazine.
The rest of the awards, which were announced in December, include Best Picture (tie between Hunger and Inglourious Basterds), Best Animated Film (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Best Foreign-Language Film (The White Ribbon), Best Actor (Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), Best Actress (Carey Mulligan in An Education), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air), Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds), and Best Screenplay (tie between Inglourious Basterds and Up in the Air).
The TFCA was formed in 1997 and is comprised of Toronto-based critics and film journalists from all major daily and weekly newspapers, as well as a variety of other print and electronic outlets. Members have sat on critic juries at the Cannes, Venice and Toronto film festivals, and also participate in the International Federation of International Film Critics (FIPRESCI). For a film to be eligible for the 2009 TFCA awards, it had to be released in Canada within the year or has to qualify for the 2009 Oscars and have a release date in Canada no later than the end of February 2010. The awards were selected by an online vote conducted by TFCA members.
Top image: Denis Villeneuve with his Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. Photo by Brian McKechnie.