01/08/2013 12:41 EST | Updated 03/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Vancouver critics pick Zero Dark Thirty as year's best

Vancouver film critics have picked Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty as best film of the year and Kim Nguyen’s Rebelle as their favourite Canadian film.

Winners of the 13th Annual Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards were unveiled Monday at the Railway Club in Vancouver.

The controversial Zero Dark Thirty, about the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden conducted by U.S. intelligence agents, earned a total of four awards, including best director for Bigelow and best screenplay for collaborator Mark Boal. Lead actress Jessica Chastain was declared best actress.

Zero Dark Thirty has made top-10 lists across North America and is widely expected to earn Oscar nominations. However, how much information the filmmakers received from the CIA as they produced the drama is also currently the subject of a probe by the U.S. Senate.

Vancouver's critics also showered kudos on Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, about a troubled man who falls under the spell of a charismatic religious leader. Joaquin Phoenix won best actor and Philip Seymour Hoffman best supporting actor for their portrayals of the two men entwined in the curious, symbiotic relationship. Amy Adams, who plays Hoffman’s wife in the film, was named best supporting actress.

Leos Carax’s Holy Motors was named best foreign-language film. Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugar Man, about a little-known American singer who became an unlikely star in South Africa during the 1970s, was selected as best documentary.

More kudos for Rebelle

Three awards went to Rebelle (alternately known as War Witch), the story of a 12-year-old girl in an unnamed African country who is taken from her village and forced to fight as a child soldier. It is Canada's entry for best foreign-language Oscar consideration.

The critics group named Rebelle best Canadian film and its young Congolese star, Rachel Mwanza — who was plucked off the streets of Kinshasa to play the role — best actress in a Canadian film. Serge Kanyinda, who portrays a teen with whom Mwanza's character has a surprisingly tender romance, took the award for best supporting actor.

Vancouver-shot Beyond The Black Rainbow, a sci-fi film about a young woman attempting to escape a futuristic commune, also won a trio of awards. The VFCC crowned it best British Columbia film while debut director Panos Cosmatos took the prize for best director and star Michael Rogers won best actor in a Canadian film.

Monday's event also featured tributes to VFCC co-founder Ian Caddell, who died in November after a lengthy battle with cancer. The Ian Caddell Award for Achievement was presented to Alan Franey, the longtime director of the Vancouver International Film Festival.