Canadian Film Awards

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The Canadian Film Awards were the leading Canadian cinema awards from 1949 until 1978. These honours were conducted annually, except in 1974 when a number of Quebec directors withdrew their participation and prompted a cancellation.[1] In the 1970s they were also sometimes known as the Etrog Awards for sculptor Sorel Etrog, who designed the statuette.[2]

Canadian Film Awards
Awarded forBest film productions in Canada
First awarded1949
Last awarded1978

The awards were succeeded by the Academy of Canadian Cinema's Genie Awards in 1980;[3] beginning in 2013 the Academy merged the Genie Awards with its separate Gemini Awards program for television to create the contemporary Canadian Screen Awards.[4]



The award was first established in 1949 by the Canadian Association for Adult Education,[1] under a steering committee that included the National Film Board's James Beveridge, the Canadian Foundation's Walter Herbert, filmmaker F. R. Crawley, the National Gallery of Canada's Donald Buchanan and diplomat Graham McInnes.[1] The initial jury consisted of Hye Bossin, managing editor of Canadian Film Weekly; M. Stein of Famous Players; CBC film critic Gerald Pratley; Moira Armour of the Toronto and Vancouver Film societies; and Ian MacNeill from CAAE.[1] The Canadian Foundation and the Canadian Film Institute were also brought in as sponsors of the awards.[5]

The first presentation was held on April 27, 1949 at the Little Elgin Theatre in Ottawa.[1]

With only a handful of Canadian films released each year, they were generally a small affair. Unlike the eligibility rules for the contemporary Canadian Screen Awards, which are based on the film having already been screened theatrically in either commercial release or the film festival circuit, in the Canadian Film Awards era films, even if otherwise unreleased, were eligible for nominations or awards based solely on their submission to a dedicated Canadian Film Awards screening festival.

In 1957, The Globe and Mail columnist Ronald Johnson criticized the awards' publicity efforts, noting that even Bossin was not actually receiving the press releases and that many of the releases which were going out were being sent to journalists not involved in covering or reporting on film.[6] The paper's film critic Jay Scott later described them as "honours given by presenters no one knew, to recipients no one recognized, to films no one had seen."[7]

With very few feature films made in Canada at all prior to the 1960s, in some years no Film of the Year winner was named at all, with the awards for Best Short Film or Best Amateur Film instead constituting the highest honour given to a film that year.[1] Even the award for Film of the Year, when presented at all, often also went to a short film. The awards were also almost totally dominated by the National Film Board, to the point that independent filmmakers sometimes alleged a systemic bias which was itself a contributing factor to the difficulty of building a sustainable commercial film industry in Canada.[7] Particularly in the 1960s, television films were also eligible for the awards; in 1969, in fact, no theatrical films were entered into the awards at all, and the nominees and winners at the 21st Canadian Film Awards consisted almost entirely of television films.[8] Despite the creation of the ACTRA Awards in 1972, the Canadian Film Awards continued to present selected "non-feature" awards, inclusive of television films, until the 1st Genie Awards in 1980.

A separate award for Best Feature Film was instituted in 1964.[5] Acting awards were introduced in 1968, and then expanded into separate categories for lead and supporting performers in 1970.[5]

In 1968, the consortium of organizations that presented the awards up to that point discontinued their involvement, and the awards were reorganized into their own independent organization with their own board of directors.[5] A new bronze award statuette was designed by sculptor Sorel Etrog, and thereafter the award was often referred to as an Etrog, although the name of the ceremony itself remained the Canadian Film Awards.[1] Two special awards, the John Grierson Award for outstanding contribution to Canadian cinema and the Wendy Michener Award for outstanding artistic achievement, were also added in later years.[1]

Quebec crisis of the 1970s


In the 1970s, the organization frequently faced crises related to the francophone film industry in Quebec. This began in 1970, when filmmaker Jean Pierre Lefebvre threatened to withdraw his film Q-Bec My Love from the competition if the Ontario Censor Board did not withdraw its demand for the film to be edited.[9] Several other filmmakers were also prepared to withdraw in solidarity, although provincial cabinet minister James Auld intervened to dissuade the board from insisting on the cuts.[9]

In 1973, a number of Quebec filmmakers boycotted the 25th Canadian Film Awards, out of a perception that the organization had a systemic bias against francophone films.[10] This protest resulted in the last-minute cancellation of the 1973 awards ceremony, with the winners announced only at a press conference, and the complete cancellation of the 1974 awards. When the awards returned in 1975, the eligibility period covered the entire two-year period since the previous ceremony in 1973; however, the awards committee revived the defunct Film of the Year category alongside the ongoing Best Feature Film award, so that two Best Pictures, one for each of 1974 and 1975, could be named.[11] The 1973 awards were also criticized for the jury's choice of Slipstream as Best Feature Film over a field of four other much stronger nominees,[12] with some writers later declaring that the film's victory, over enduring Canadian film classics such as Kamouraska and Réjeanne Padovani, essentially confirmed that the boycotting directors were correct in their beliefs.[7]

Evolution into the Genie Awards


In the final years of the Canadian Film Awards, the dedicated festival was discontinued, and instead the eligible films were screened as part of the Festival of Festivals lineup after that event was launched in 1976, with the ceremony taking place at the end of the festival.[13]

After 1978, the awards were taken over by the new Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, and reorganized into the new Genie Awards.[14] Despite the renaming, Etrog's statuette was initially retained as the design of the Genie statuettes;[15] they later underwent a modernized revamp, but were still based on Etrog's original design. The Genie Awards continued to be presented until 2012, when the Academy merged them with its Gemini Awards program for television to create the contemporary Canadian Screen Awards.

After launching the Genies, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television created the Bijou Awards, which were presented in 1981 as a new home for several award categories that were being dropped from the Genies, although the Bijous were never presented again after 1981, and instead the Gemini Awards were launched in 1986 to replace the ACTRAs as Canada's primary television awards.

When Academy publicist Maria Topalovich was preparing a history of the awards for publication in the early 1980s, she found that even the Academy itself had not received complete documentation of the awards' past winners and nominees in the takeover,[7] and instead she had to undertake extensive archival research.[7]

Awards ceremonies


The following is a listing of all Canadian Film Awards Ceremonies.

Ceremony Date Host(s) Venue Film of the Year Feature Film (1964–78)
1st Canadian Film Awards April 27, 1949 Robert Winters Little Elgin Theatre, Ottawa, Ontario The Loon's Necklace None awarded
2nd Canadian Film Awards April 19, 1950 Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent Little Elgin Theatre, Ottawa, Ontario None awarded None awarded
3rd Canadian Film Awards April 22, 1951 Mary Pickford Odeon Theatre, Ottawa, Ontario None awarded None awarded
4th Canadian Film Awards April 27, 1952 Sidney Earle Smith Victoria Theatre, Toronto, Ontario Newfoundland Scene None awarded
5th Canadian Film Awards April 30, 1953 Jacques DesBaillets (with guest Dorothy Lamour) Avenue Theatre, Montreal, Quebec Tit-Coq None awarded
6th Canadian Film Awards May 10, 1954 J. R. White (Imperial Oil president) Kent Theatre, Montreal, Quebec The Seasons None awarded
7th Canadian Film Awards 1955 No public ceremony No public ceremony The Stratford Adventure None awarded
8th Canadian Film Awards August 6, 1956 Maurice Evans Avon Theatre, Stratford, Ontario None awarded None awarded
9th Canadian Film Awards June 15, 1957 Leonard Brockington King Edward Hotel, Toronto, Ontario None awarded None awarded
10th Canadian Film Awards June 21, 1958 Davidson Dunton King Edward Hotel, Toronto, Ontario City of Gold None awarded
11th Canadian Film Awards June 5, 1959 W. J. Sheridan King Edward Hotel, Toronto, Ontario None awarded None awarded
12th Canadian Film Awards June 3, 1960 Albert Trueman King Edward Hotel, Toronto, Ontario None awarded None awarded
13th Canadian Film Awards May 13, 1961 Alphonse Ouimet King Edward Hotel, Toronto, Ontario Universe None awarded
14th Canadian Film Awards May 26, 1962 Andrew Stewart King Edward Hotel, Toronto, Ontario None awarded None awarded
15th Canadian Film Awards May 10, 1963 Jeanine Beaubien Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, Quebec Lonely Boy None awarded
16th Canadian Film Awards May 8, 1964 Wayne and Shuster Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Ontario Pour la suite du monde À tout prendre
17th Canadian Film Awards May 15, 1965 Max Ferguson Westbury Hotel, Toronto, Ontario None awarded The Luck of Ginger Coffey
18th Canadian Film Awards May 6, 1966 Rich Little Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, Quebec The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam Mission of Fear (Astataïon, ou Le Festin des Morts)
19th Canadian Film Awards September 23, 1967 Fred Davis Inn on the Park, Toronto, Ontario Warrendale Warrendale
20th Canadian Film Awards October 4, 1968 Bill Walker, Louise Marleau Seaway Towers Hotel, Toronto, Ontario A Place to Stand The Ernie Game
21st Canadian Film Awards October 4, 1969 Fred Davis Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Ontario The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar None awarded
22nd Canadian Film Awards October 3, 1970 Bill Walker Imperial Theatre, Toronto, Ontario To See Or Not to See (Psychocratie) Goin' Down the Road
23rd Canadian Film Awards October 1, 1971 Leslie Nielsen Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Ontario None awarded Mon oncle Antoine
24th Canadian Film Awards October 13, 1972 Jacques Fauteux Ontario Place Cinesphere, Toronto, Ontario None awarded Wedding in White
25th Canadian Film Awards October 12, 1973 Press conference, no formal ceremony Chevalier Theatre, Montreal, Quebec None awarded Slipstream
26th Canadian Film Awards October 12, 1975 No Ceremony in 1974 The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz None awarded
Peter Gzowski Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario Orders (Les Ordres) Orders (Les Ordres)
27th Canadian Film Awards October 21, 1976 Lorne Greene CFTO-TV Studios, Scarborough, Ontario None awarded Lies My Father Told Me
28th Canadian Film Awards November 20, 1977 Gordon Pinsent Hilton Harbour Castle Hotel, Toronto, Ontario None awarded J.A. Martin photographe
29th Canadian Film Awards September 21, 1978 John Candy, Catherine O'Hara Ryerson Theatre, Toronto, Ontario None awarded The Silent Partner
Genie Awards from 1980
Ceremony Date Host(s) Venue Film of the Year Feature Film (1964–78)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Townend, Paul. "Canadian Film Awards". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  2. ^ Genie Awards profile and history Archived 2009-01-03 at the Wayback Machine at the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television's website
  3. ^ "The Genie Awards". Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Archived from the original on 2009-01-03. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  4. ^ "Goodbye Genies and Geminis, hello Canadian Screen Awards". The GATE. The GATE Entertainment Magazine. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Maria Topalovich, And the Genie Goes To...: Celebrating 50 Years of the Canadian Film Awards. Stoddart Publishing, 2000. ISBN 0-7737-3238-1. pp. 81-83.
  6. ^ "Moving with the movies". The Globe and Mail, June 17, 1957.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Coffee-table Genie-alogy took some reel sleuthing". The Globe and Mail, March 21, 1985.
  8. ^ "No Theatre Films Up for Awards". Ottawa Journal. September 24, 1969. p. 31. Retrieved August 5, 2017 – via  
  9. ^ a b "Canadian Film Awards copes with string of crises". The Globe and Mail, September 28, 1970.
  10. ^ "Rebirth of the film awards". The Globe and Mail, October 2, 1975.
  11. ^ "Les Ordes [sic] takes top cinema award". Brandon Sun. October 15, 1975. p. 19. Retrieved March 28, 2018 – via  
  12. ^ "The stinkers of '73". The Globe and Mail, December 29, 1973.
  13. ^ Lawrence O'Toole, "The days of whine and roses". Maclean's, October 2, 1978.
  14. ^ "Canadian 'Oscar' show new group's first aim". The Globe and Mail, April 12, 1979.
  15. ^ "Sorel Etrog's link to his past". The Globe and Mail, December 7, 1996.

Further reading

  • Topalovich, Maria; Sheffer, Andra (1984). A pictorial history of Canadian film awards. Don Mills, Ontario: Stoddart. ISBN 0-7737-2036-7.