Monsieur Lazhar swept Quebec's Jutra film awards on Sunday night, winning seven out of nine categories for which it was nominated, including best picture.
Director Philippe Falardeau's film about an Algerian immigrant who helps a middle-school class deal with the suicide of their teacher won six Genie Awards last week.
Falardeau was awarded the Prix Jutra for best director and best screenplay, while his child stars —11-year-old Sophie Nélisse and 13-year-old Émilien Néron — won supporting actress and actor, respectively. The drama also won awards for best sound and original music.
Falardeau dedicated his prize to Algerian immigrants who are rebuilding their lives in Quebec.
He also highlighted the role that Radio-Canada's Course destination monde — a program that hired young filmmakers to make short films — played in kick-starting his filmmaking career.
"For those who are not familiar with Course destination monde, it was from the time before reality TV," he said, speaking in French.
"At that time, shows did not put young people into a loft together to try to cultivate jealousy. They gave them cameras and asked them to reflect and traverse the planet to meet one another."
New process sparks controversy
The dominance of a single film — albeit one that also earned an Oscar nomination — caused consternation during the Jutra voting process, as recognition is traditionally bestowed on several popular Quebec films each year.
Some industry members believe that films such as Le vendeur, Coteau Rouge, En terrains connu and Funkytown were overlooked in favour of titles that had a higher commercial profile.
Organizers recently changed the process so that a 16-person jury chooses the Jutra nominees, instead of allowing several local film organizations to make nominations. There was also some controversy over a note on the ballots themselves that said it was not necessary to have seen all of the films in order to vote.
Monsieur Lazhar’'slead actor Fellag did not triumph in the best actor category. That award went to Gilbert Sicotte for his portrayal of an aging car salesman in a dying town in Le vendeur.
Jean-Marc Vallée’s Café de Flore, a triple Genie-winner last week, also won three Jutras. Its wins included a best actress trophy for Vanessa Paradis, the French thespian who plays the mother of a boy with Down syndrome in 1960s-era Paris.
Denis Villeneuve's Incendies, which was a big winner at the 2011 Jutras, was named the film that had the most success outside of Quebec. Like Monsieur Lazhar, it earned an Oscar nomination and was popular at film festivals internationally.
Patrick Doyon's Oscar-nominated National Film Board of Canada shortDimanche won best animated film.
The Jutra Awards, Quebec's annual film honour, were held at the Théâtre St. Denis in Montreal Sunday night, with the ceremony broadcast live on Radio-Canada Television.