CBC News
Oscar-nominated film not considered Canadian
Dan Brown, CBC News Online | April 26, 2004

When the winners of this year's Genie Awards for excellence in Canadian film are announced on Saturday night, one name definitely won't be among them: Chris Hinton.

Chris Hinton
Hinton is the Montreal-based animator who made Nibbles, the whimsical short film about a fishing trip in Quebec that was up for an Oscar earlier this year.

Because the organizers of the Academy Awards recognized Hinton with a nomination, fans of Canadian cinema were expecting that he would also be included in the Genie category set aside for animated shorts.

But when the Genie nominees were announced on March 16, Hinton's name was missing. In fact, not only was Hinton not nominated, he didn't even bother to submit his creation to the competition in the first place.

That's because Nibbles, which was made entirely in this country, is not considered a Canadian film by the Genies.

"I'm in this crookedly Canadian situation where they don't consider it a Canadian film," Hinton told CBC News Online. "It's amazing."

The 4�-minute cartoon is based on a family fishing trip that Hinton took in northern Quebec with his two sons. The animation, which Hinton did by himself, was drawn on a computer in Montreal. The voicing, sound and music were also done in Montreal. Even the prints of the film were struck in Montreal. "Everything was done here, absolutely everything was done here," the filmmaker explained.

The fly in the ointment is the film's producer, Ron Diamond. Because Diamond is an American, Nibbles doesn't count as Canadian content. "That's the kick," Hinton said.

As the organizers of the Genie Awards point out, however, they're not responsible for defining what is or isn't Canadian. Instead, they rely on the definition supplied by the federal government.

"We go according to how they define it. We don't guess. That would be a little tricky," said the manager of the Genie Awards, Erin McLeod.

In order to qualify for the Genies, a film must have a certification number from either the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the federal broadcast regulator, or the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office (CAVCO), which is an arm of the Heritage Ministry

"What we require is a CRTC/CAVCO certification for every film that enters," McLeod said, adding that most of the certificates she gets are from the CRTC.

The CRTC's rules, which are posted on its website, are quite clear. They state that "the producer and certain key creative positions must be occupied by Canadians" for a film or television show to be approved.

Phillipe Tousignant, a spokesman for the CRTC, confirms that the nationality of Hinton's producer would have prevented Nibbles from being accepted. "If you're produced by an American company, you can't be a Canadian program," he said. (If a film's producer is Canadian, however, then the so-called "points" system of determining Canadian content kicks in.)

"It's not eligible. It's really weird," Hinton said. "I consider it very much Canadian. I think of it as the quintessential 'Canadian guy in the deep woods story.'"

In the past, Hinton has produced films through the National Film Board of Canada. His 1991 NFB short Blackfly, which was also nominated for an Oscar, did qualify for the Genies – it was nominated, but lost out when the envelope was opened. The difference this time around is that Hinton turned to Diamond, a friend whose company is based in Los Angeles, for help producing the film.

"My take on it is that they don't consider it a Canadian film because it has an American producer, when in fact I took a fishing trip in Canada with my two Canadian sons to a Canadian resort," Hinton said.

In addition to being nominated for an Oscar, Hinton also got a nod for a BAFTA, the British equivalent of the Academy Awards.

Barry Grant is a professor of film studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. He believes that Nibbles being classified as non-Canadian is a case of "bureaucratic slippage."

"It's kind of absurd in a way," he said, adding that many films that do get defined as Canadian are not overtly Canadian, but ape American films.

According to Grant, the CRTC's points system has worked well in the past, but it should be modified so that it's flexible enough – especially in this age of foreign co-productions – to accommodate instances where a film's producer isn't Canadian. "If everything else is Canadian, then it should be Canadian," Grant said.

Grant isn't the only person who disagrees with the regulations. Jim Abbott is the Conservative party MP who serves as the Opposition heritage critic. He, too, considers Nibbles a product of this country. "In the name of logic, the answer just must be Yes," he said from Ottawa.

"My take on it is that once again, the heavy hand of number-crunching and bureaucracy and false calculations have got in the way of the legitimate recognition of something that is distinctly very Canadian."

For his part, Hinton is handling the situation in a distinctly Canadian way: he says he shrugs his shoulders, then moves on.

"At this point, I'm just content to get on with my next project and let the chips falls where they may. There's nothing I can do about it and I don't want to try and change the way things are organized in this country."

Hinton says he doesn't want to be labelled a whiner, and he's grateful for the public support he receives through the NFB.

"I'm a filmmaker, not a politician," he said.

McLeod says she has not received any complaints in the past about the Genie rules.

"No one's ever given us a problem about it."

"Absolutely it's a Canadian film, all about Canadians, made in Canada."
– Director Chris Hinton on his film Nibbles.

"I do think it's a little shallow."
– Hinton on his film not being considered Canadian.

"I don't want to sound like a whiner. I think what we have in Canada is a tough situation."
– Hinton on his - and Canadian film's - predicament.

2004 Genie Awards

CRTC Canadian Program Certification

Acme Filmworks

National Film Board of Canada

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