The Canadian contingent among the Oscar nominees is once again strong this year. Not overpowering, but consistent.
Leading the pack was the feature Monsieur Lazhar, up for best foreign-language film. About an Algerian refugee who becomes a Grade 6 teacher in Montreal, the film was directed by Philippe Falardeau and co-produced by Luc Déry and Kim McCraw. Starting an impressive streak, those producers were at the Oscars last year as producers of the Quebec film and best foreign-language nominee Incendies.
Monsieur Lazhar marks the sixth time that Canada's official entry in the category has received a nomination, according to Telefilm Canada.
In a conference call to reporters, Falardeau noted that the build-up to the nomination has been "a very long process which started back in September." Numerous appearances and accolades at film festivals, a special screening for foreign press ahead of the Golden Globe awards as well as ads in trade publications targeted at members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were all part of the Oscar campaign that goes on behind the scenes.
"It's kind of a tricky campaign, because you can't do lobbying per se. But you have to make sure that people talk about the film," Falardeau explained.
In Darkness, Poland's entry for best foreign-language film, which was co-produced by Canadian and German producers and written by Toronto's David Shamoon, was also nominated.
Meanwhile, the National Film Board of Canada had another banner showing in best short animation, with two films receiving nods: Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby's Wild Life and Patrick Doyon's Dimanche (Sunday).
"To have one film nominated for an Academy Award is an honour. To be nominated twice, in a single year, I believe says something special about the talent of Canadian animators, and the NFB's role in producing pioneering works that focus international attention on Canadian innovation and excellence," said the head of the NFB, Tom Perlmutter.
The Toronto-raised composer and perennial Oscar favourite Howard Shore, who notably won in the past for the score of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is up again for best original score for Martin Scorsese's Hugo.