Falardeau got the good news from an online broadcast of the Academy Awards news conference, which had him so rattled he says he turned away from the computer screen until he heard the word "Canada" and erupted with excitement.
"I just heard 'Canada' and I screamed and I jumped into my producer's arms like a baby," Falardeau said from the Sundance Film Festival where he was promoting the film with producers Luc Dery and Kim McCraw.
Even after the excitement settled, he struggled to describe a torrent of emotions.
"Every time I watch a hockey player trying to describe his feelings after winning the Stanley Cup he looks stupid because it is indescribable and unbelievable," said Falardeau, whose film centres on an Algerian immigrant who helps a class of Montreal students grapple with the sudden death of their teacher.
"So there you are: indescribable and unbelievable."
Falardeau is in the unusual position of competing against fellow Canadians in the best foreign-language film category — Poland's submission "In Darkness," includes partners from Canada, as well as Germany.
Its Toronto-based screenwriter joked that Falardeau is turning into his main awards rival, since both productions are also up for Genie Awards, Canada's version of the Oscars.
"It's almost beyond our expectation," David Shamoon said of the nomination for "In Darkness," set in Nazi-occupied Poland and based on a true story about a worker who hides a group of Jewish men, women and children in the sewers.
"It's like a fairy tale."
"In Darkness" is produced by Canadians Eric Jordan and Paul Stephens. It hits select Canadian theatres Feb. 17.
The other nominees are Belgium's "Bullhead," Israel's "Footnote," and Iran's "A Separation," which won the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film earlier this month.
Other Canadians vying for Oscar trophies include stage and screen legend Christopher Plummer, who scored a best supporting actor nomination for "Beginners," composer Howard Shore for his work on "Hugo," the National Film Board of Canada shorts "Wild Life" and "Dimanche/Sunday" and sound mixer David Giammarco for his work on "Moneyball."
"I was pleasantly sleeping and someone had the audacity to wake me up," Plummer joked about the news, which brought his second nomination in three years.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated the homegrown contenders in a news release.
"All of our Oscar nominees showcase Canadian talent and excellence in the international film industry," Harper stated.
"As we approach this year's Academy Awards, I wish all Canadian nominees the best of luck."
London, Ont.-raised Ryan Gosling, who was a hopeful for standout turns in the political thriller "The Ides of March," the stylish noir "Drive" and the comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love," was shut out.
The war documentary, "Under Fire: Journalists in Combat," from Toronto native Martyn Burke, also missed out on a nomination after making an earlier 15-film short list for best documentary feature.
Martin Scorsese's 3D adventure "Hugo" leads the nominees overall with 11 nods, while France's silent tribute to old Hollywood "The Artist" nabbed 10.
It's the second year in a row a Quebec filmmaker is vying for an Academy Award in the best foreign-language film category.
Last year, Denis Villeneuve was in the running for his war drama "Incendies," also produced by Dery and McCraw.
Falardeau says Villeneuve sent him and the producers a text Monday that said simply: "Good night and good luck."
Falardeau added that he'll be asking Villeneuve if he can borrow his tuxedo for the glitzy Oscar bash on Feb. 26.
"I'm going to have to ask him how (tall) he is and what's his measurement because I don't have a tux and I don't really like tuxes," said Falardeau, whose film was a festival smash and earned him a spot on Variety magazine's directors to watch in 2012 list.
"But I said to my girlfriend this morning that she could go shop for a new dress."
Past Canadian productions that have competed for the best foreign-language film trophy include Deepa Mehta's 2005 feature "Water" and three films by Denys Arcand: 1986's "The Decline of the American Empire," 1989's "Jesus of Montreal" and 2003's "The Barbarian Invasions," which went on to win the coveted award.
Falardeau, whose film opens in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg this weekend, said he's never aspired to Hollywood success.
"I was never Oscar-bound in my mind in my life so it's not something I'd given any thought," he said, adding that he's heartened to know that his intimate film will be recognized at the biggest film gala in the world.
"I think it says a lot about the fact that we have to make the movies that we have inside of us and not try to imitate any kind of recipe. This is a dream that I never imagine I would have, that is realizing itself.
"I never gave myself the permission to have that dream and there I am this morning knowing that we will be going with Luc Dery and Kim McCraw, my two friends and producers, to the Oscars."
- With a file from The Associated PressSuggest a correction