ARARAT Leads Genie Award Nominations

BEST MOTION PICTURE Atom Egoyan–Robert Lantos
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE David Alpay–Christopher Plummer
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE Arsinee Khanjian
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE Elias Koteas
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Atom Egoyan
ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC – ORIGINAL SCORE Michael Danna
ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION/PRODUCTION DESIGN Phillip Barker
ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN Beth Pasternak

TORONTO (Canadian Press/The Globe and Mail)–Leading a pack of movies described as "an extraordinary reflection of the diversity of filmmaking in this country," Atom Egoyan’s Ararat has been honored with nine Genie Award nominations–including best picture.

The 23rd annual Genies–given for the best in home-grown cinema–will be handed out at a televised gala Feb. 13. Ararat is the story of a director trying to make a film in Toronto about the Armenian massacre of the First World War.

Paul Gratton–vice-president of the academy’s cinema division–noted how Ararat had been fraught with controversy because of its subject matter–but that rumors of Turkish protests just faded away.

"When the film was revealed at Cannes–it was something entirely different than what people expected," Gratton said. "In typical Egoyan fashion–it became a sort of rumination on the nature of history and memory and how we filter our collective memories."

The movie–described by the director as covering "a lot of controversial issues," was nominated for nine awards in eight categories: best picture–best actress–best supporting actor–best original screenplay–art direction/production design–costume design–best score and best actor–for which both David Alpay and Christopher Plummer are nominated. (Mr. Plummer’s performance was lauded last month by a Fox News Channel film critic who wrote that the actor deserves an Academy Award nomination for his role in Ararat. "Will he be nominated for this? He should be," Roger Friedman wrote–in commen’s posted Nov. 13 on the Fox Web site.)

David Alpay–the young University of Toronto student making his acting debut in Ararat–was on hand to help read the nominations list. He said he found out only that morning that he was nominated in the best-actor category along with co-star Christopher Plummer.

"I hope he wins–he’s absolutely incredible in the film," Alpay said. "I’m just in awe–right? I’m a fan–I’m a movie fan–I watch movies all the time–so for me this is like–wow–this is great. I still feel a little disconnected from the whole thing."

Asked what he hopes Ararat will accomplish–Alpay–who like Egoyan is of Armenian heritage–said the film resonates deeply within him–which he finds emotionally fulfilling. But he had no idea why the protests dissipated–insisting he’s excluded from those circles.

"You never know what to expect. You hope people have an open mind–that they go and they really think about things critically and don’t just jump in."

Alpay says he’s focusing on school right now and not thinking about reports that he has an acting career ahead of him as a result of his breakout performance in Ararat.

"There’s so much to do right now. I’ve gotta get through school–gotta finish this year with good marks and . . . if something pops up and it looks good–it would be nice to read it and take a look."

Just what are the Genies exactly? The short answer is that they are Canada’s answer to the Oscars.

Presented by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television–the Genies celebrate outstanding achievement in Canadian film. The Academy was created in 1979 to establish a new award–called the Genies–which would replace the Canadian Film Awards.

Since 1980–the best and brightest filmmakers–actors–craftspeople and producers working in Canadian film have been honoured annually. Jeremy Irons–Martha Henry–Remy Girard–Ian Holm–Helena Bonham Carter and Molly Parker are just a few of the actors and actresses awarded Genies. My American Cousin–Le declin de l’empire americain–Jesus de Montreal–Exotica–Lilies and The Sweet Hereafter are just a few of the many great movies to receive recognition.

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