Those are two questions the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television - which organizes Canada’s film and TV awards – is asking itself, and the dilemma is gaining notice outside the country.
The Hollywood Reporter today ran a story about the sad state of box office for homegrown movies (with the exception of Quebec, of course) and wonders why people would tune in to see awards given out to films they hadn’t seen by Canadian “celebrities” that don’t quite sparkle as brightly as those Stateside.
“Though led by new leadership and new competition rules, the Academy is taking baby steps to make the Genies more relevant and watchable for ordinary Canadians,” the Reporter writes. “The entry fee for low-budget short and feature films has been cut to secure more awards show bait.
“And a commercial theatrical release is no longer required for a local movie to qualify for Genie consideration. Screening at two accredited film festivals now makes a film eligible.”
Wow. So the average punter really won’t have had a chance to see a potentially nominated film. Way to handicap a keener's best efforts.
But will it make a difference to the TV broadcast? The Reporter notes that the Genies could be sexed up somewhat: “The goal is producing a better Genies to get tuxed and gowned celebrities, many American and British stars in Canadian movies like Barney's Version and Splice, to show up and walk down the red carpet so Canadians will tune in,” the Reporter adds.
“After all, the interest factor plunges when Canadian distributors don’t get top talent to an event that promotes their product and industry. Award shows, like much TV celebrity coverage, are formulaic.”
At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I just don’t see how any of this will grab eyeballs among the Canadian public. English-language Canadian films, many of which are excellent, just don’t seem to capture the popular imagination the way foreign films do. I don’t know why but I think we can all agree it’s pretty much a fact.
That the same cannot be said for cinema in other smallish nations such as Sweden and Australia - which have a comparatively thriving local film scene - makes the situation here all the more perplexing. Are we really that dull as a nation that we can’t bear to watch ourselves, not even wrapped in a protective coat of fiction?
The idea of parachuting foreign talent in to gussy up the awards also seems counterintuitive. And unnecessary; Russell Peters, Paul Gross, Sarah Polley, Jay Baruchel, Don McKellar and Atom Egoyan would constitute a respectable lineup of talent. I still don’t think Canadian viewers would care.
Add Ryan Gosling, Seth Rogen and Rachel McAdams maybe... but still, considerably short of comparable awards shows.
Maybe less effort should be spent on hyping the films (to what end anyway, one could justifiably ask) and more directed towards distributing them, so that English Canada can begin to legitimately cultivate an audience for stories by us and about us the way Quebeckers do. Make the films accessible, and maybe people will go see them.
Really, if the beleaguered Canadian music industry can make the Juno Awards exciting and relevant – and organizers have done an excellent job over the last few years of creating grassroots enthusiasm for homegrown music and slapping that enthusiasm across small screens for all to see – then surely the film industry can do the same, right?
Until that happens, award shows just don’t make a lot of sense, especially ones aired by our national broadcaster. Maybe they should show a movie, instead.
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