The awards keep mounting for Philippe Falardeau's intimate school drama Monsieur Lazhar.
The Quebec feature has been named the best Canadian film by the Toronto Film Critics' Association, netting a $15,000 prize.
It beat out David Cronenberg's psychological study A Dangerous Method and Jean-Marc Vallee's sweeping love story Café de Flore.
“I've had a good run with this film since the beginning,” a surprised Falardeau said as he accepted the award from comic actress Andrea Martin at a gala dinner Tuesday.
“It's been amazing, it's been mind-boggling... and I think most directors would be lying if they said they (weren't) longing for good critiques. I can appreciate how hard work it is...when it's well done.”
Monsieur Lazhar is Canada's submission for the best foreign language category at the Oscars.
It centres on an Algerian immigrant hired to take over a Montreal classroom of 11- and 12-year-olds struggling to cope with their previous teacher's tragic death.
It has also collected prizes at film festivals in Toronto and Locarno, Switzerland.
The latest award could not have come at a better time for Falardeau – Monsieur Lazhar is slated to open in Toronto and Vancouver on Jan. 27.
Critics also awarded Toronto director Ingrid Veninger the Jay Scott Prize for best emerging artist for her movie i am a good person/i am a bad person.
It comes with a $5,000 cash prize that Veninger said would go straight into her next project, “a lo-fi musical-fantasy-lesbian-love story-road trip.”
“It just gives me steam to keep going and keep making movies by whatever means necessary,” Veninger said as she accepted the award, presented to her by Toronto director Bruce McDonald.
“Whether I get financing, whether I don't get financing, whether I self-distribute, whether I get distribution it doesn't matter – just by whatever means necessary with passion and conviction and straight from my heart that's what I'm going to keep on doing.”
The best student filmmaker award went to York University student Janice Lee for her short film faraway. The award carries a value of $5,000 in post-production services from Deluxe Toronto.
Monsieur Lazhar comes from the same producers as last year's critical darling, Incendies.
Along with Incendies writer/director Denis Villeneuve, producers Luc Dery and Kim McCraw rode a wave of acclaim that included an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film.
Falardeau says Villeneuve gave him no advice for the roller-coaster ride he finds himself on.
But Falardeau joked that if he makes the Oscar nomination list, he already knows that he'll turn to Villeneuve for at least one thing.
“The only thing I will get from him – maybe – is if I'm nominated for an Oscar I'll steal his tuxedo,” he quipped.
Falardeau noted that he faces another hurdle before that possibility. There will first be a shortlist of nine foreign language film candidates before the Academy selects its five nominees.
Falardeau said he thinks he has a shot at making the first cut, but doubted he would score a nomination.
“I've been working very hard not to think about it but every time there's an occasion with the media of course the topic comes up,” he added.
“At the beginning it was flattering, now it's just plain nerve-racking.”
The Academy Awards nominations will be announced Jan. 24. The awards will be held Feb. 26.
Previously announced critics' awards include best animated feature The Adventures of Tintin, acting prizes for Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain for Take Shelter, and acting prizes for Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn and Christopher Plummer for Beginners.
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