Barney's Version and Incendies, two of the most prominent films on the Canadian film landscape last year, lead the nominees for the 31st Genie Awards.
Director Richard J. Lewis's cinematic adaptation of Mordecai Richler's final novel led with 11 nominations for English Canada's top movie honour, including recognition of Paul Giamatti's turn as the titular Barney Panofsky (best actor) and Dustin Hoffman as his father, Izzy (best supporting actor).
"There's nothing sweeter than applause at home. This is not just a Canadian movie, it's a movie about Canadians," producer Robert Lantos, for whom Barney's Version was a longtime labour of love, told CBC News after the announcement.
"As satisfying as it is to receive kudos abroad, this is the sweetest music of all."
Denis Villeneuve's acclaimed drama Incendies was right behind with 10 nominations. A darling of the 2010 film festival circuit, the searing family drama is based on the stage play by Wajdi Mouawad and tells the story of two siblings exploring their late mother's mysterious past.
Selected Genie nominees:
Best picture: 10½; Heartbeats; Barney's Version; Incendies; Splice.
Directing: Xavier Dolan, Heartbeats; Richard J. Lewis, Barney's Version; Vincenzo Natali, Splice; Podz, 10½; Denis Villeneuve, Incendies.
Supporting actor: Martin Dubreuil, 10½; Dustin Hoffman, Barney's Version; Alexis Martin, Route 132; Callum Keith Rennie, Gunless; Rossif Sutherland, High Life.
Supporting actress: Sonja Bennett, Cole; Anne-Elizabeth Bossé, Heartbeats; Minnie Driver, Barney's Version; Terra Hazelton, Fubar II; Mary Walsh, Crackie.
Adapted screenplay: Barney's Version; High Life; A Shine of Rainbows; Les sept jours du Talion (Seven Days); Incendies.
Original screenplay: Route 132; 10½; Grown Up Movie Star; Defendor; The Trotsky.
Documentary: La belle visite (Journey's End); In the Name of the Family; Last Train Home; Leave Them Laughing; You Don't Like the Truth: 4 days inside Guantanamo.
Score: Brendan Canning, Trigger; Pasquale Catalano, Barney's Version; Jonathan Goldsmith, High Life; Keegan Jessamy & Bryce Mitchell, At Home, By Myself … With You; Sook-Yin Lee, Buck 65 & Adam Litovitz, Year of the Carnivore.
Song: What's Wrong With That?, Buck 65 (Year of the Carnivore); Already Gone, Mary Milne (The Trotsky); Tender Steps, Cherie Pyne (Crackie); West End Sky, Mark Sasso, Casey Laforet & Stephen Pitkin (Grown Up Movie Star); There's No Place Like Christmas, Paul J. Spence (Fubar II).
A complete list of nominees is available on the Genie Awards website.
Incendies, Villeneuve's follow-up to his powerful Montreal Massacre film Polytechnique, is also one of five nominees for best foreign film at the 2011 Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Other titles that earned multiple Genie nominations include Vincenzo Natali's sci-fi thriller Splice, Xavier Dolan's contemporary love story Heartbeats (Les amours imaginaires) and Jacob Tierney's teen comedy The Trotsky.
Barney's Version and Incendies will provide stiff competition for the coveted best picture category. Their competition includes Heartbeats, Splice and the dark Quebec drama 10½, directed by Daniel Grou, also known as Podz.
The five best picture nominees are also reflected in the best director category, with Lewis, Villeneuve, Dolan, Natali and Podz all vying for the honour.
Quebec films in the spotlight
In addition to Giamatti's performance in Barney's Version, which was filmed partly in Montreal, the other best actor nominees are largely also featured in Quebec films.
Montreal favourite Jay Baruchel is in the running for his star turn in The Trotsky, as is 10½'s child star Robert Naylor and François Papineau for Louis Belanger's French-language road movie Route 132. Rounding out the category is Timothy Olyphant, who leads a quartet of junkies-turned-bank-robbers in the Gary Yates crime comedy High Life.
The race for best actress sees both Trigger stars Molly Parker and the late Tracy Wright in contention for the prize, along with Lubna Azabal for Incendies, Rosamund Pike for Barney's Version and Tatiana Maslany for Grown Up Movie Star.
The filmed-in-Toronto blockbuster Resident Evil: Afterlife was named winner of the Golden Reel Award, presented to the title with the year's biggest take at the box office. The fourth installment of the popular zombie saga also set a box-office record, becoming the most successful production in Canadian feature film history.
"I make pictures that are pretty relentlessly commercial and the academy voters generally don't vote for very big commercial successes except in the technical categories, as they're called," said Don Carmody, Resident Evil's producer and a six-time winner of the Golden Reel honour.
"It's the bigger award for me to stand at the back of the theatre and to hear an audience react — to hear them laughing or to hear them screaming or jumping or something like that — than for me to be standing on stage accepting a trophy."
The 2011 Claude Jutra Award for outstanding achievement by a first-time filmmaker will go to Jephté Bastien, who made his directorial debut with Sortie 67, a drama exploring a young man's attempt to escape the world of Montreal street gangs.
"By all accounts, this has been a fantastic year for Canadian cinema," academy CEO Sara Morton said in a statement.
Slated for live broadcast on CBC-TV, the Genies gala takes place the evening of March 10 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.