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Maelstrom, Montreal director Denis Villeneuve's offbeat fantasy about a young woman who flees the scene of a car accident, captured five Genie awards last night at a gala ceremony in Toronto.

The five awards -- for best motion picture, best direction, best screenplay, (Mr. Villeneuve) best actress (Marie-Josée Cruze) and best cinematography (André Turpin) -- were the most handed out to a single film at the 21st annual Genie ceremonies. Broadcast live from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on CBC television, the awards are given by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

Clement Virgo's Love Come Down, about a dysfunctional biracial family living in the 1920s, won three Genies -- for best actor in a supporting role (Martin Cummins); best sound editing and best overall sound.

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Robert Lepage's cinematic version of the John Mighton play Possible Worlds earned two Genies, for best editing (Susan Shipton) and art direction and production design (François Séguin, Danièle Rouleau).

On a percentage basis, Maelstrom, produced by Roger Frappier and Luc Vandal, was also the clear winner, taking five of 10 nominations. The big loser was Here's To Life, which was nominated for eight awards and won only one -- for best original score (Patric Caird).

Stardom, one of the most expensive Canadian films of 2000, directed by Denys Arcand, also won a single Genie, for achievement in costume design (Michel Robidas).

With broadcaster Brian Linehan acting as host, the Genie show was attended by such performers as Mary Walsh, Colm Feore, Wendy Crewson, and Tom McCamus.

Typically, few of the winning films have been seen by Canadians. Love Come Down had a brief run in one Canadian city, Winnipeg. Possible Worlds and Maelstrom have also seen limited release. One of the only films that did have wider exposure -- Allan Moyle's New Waterford Girl, which played on 20 Canadian screens last year and was nominated in seven categories, including best picture -- came up empty-handed.

Other Genie winners included Helen Shaver, best supporting actress (We All Fall Down); Tony Nardi, best actor (My Father's Angel); Ron Mann, best documentary (Grass), beating four National Film Board nominations.

In addition, the annual Claude Jutra Award for direction of a first feature film went to Philippe Falardeau, for La Moitié gauche du frigo. The award honours the influential Québécois director who died in 1987.

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"I'm often asked what is a Canadian filom,]Mr. Falardeau said. "A Canadian film is like Candian beer. They are fine local products. It's just that it's tough to get them across the borders of the provinces."

The Golden Reel Award, presented to the year's highest-grossing Canadian film, went to the action-thriller The Art of War, starring Wesley Snipes and directed by Christian Duguay. The movie grossed $4.5-million in Canada between Oct. 21, 1999, and Oct. 20, 2000. "This is the kind of film that audiences wanted to see," said distributor Stephen Greenberg. "You have to recognize what the marketplace is."

Genie winners in all categories

Best Motion Picture: Maelstrom - Roger Frappier, Luc Vandal

Achievement in Direction: Denis Villeneuve - Maelstrom

Best Screenplay: Denis Villeneuve - Maelstrom

Best Actor: Tony Nardi - My Father's Angel

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Best Actress: Marie-Josée Croze - Maelstrom

Best Supporting Actor: Martin Cummins - Love Come Down

Best Supporting Actress: Helen Shaver - We All Fall Down

Achievement in Cinematography: André Turpin - Maelstrom

Achievement in Editing: Susan Shipton - Possible Worlds

Art direction/Production design: François Séguin, Danièle Rouleau - Possible Worlds

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Costume Design: Michel Robidas - Stardom

Achievement in Music - Original Score: Patric Caird - Here's to Life!

Achievement in Music - Original Song: François Dompierre - Fortuna - Laura Cadieux. . .La Suite

Achievement in Overall Sound: Daniel Pellerin, Paul Adlaf, Peter Kelly, Brad Thornton, Brad Zoern - Love Come Down

Sound Editing: David McCallum, Fred Brennan, Susan Conley, Steven Hammond, Garrett Kerr, Jane Tattersall, Robert Warchol - Love Come Down

Best Documentary: Ron Mann - Grass

Best Animated Short: Michael Scott, Eugene Fedorenko, Rose Newlove, David Verrall - Village of Idiots

Best Action Short Drama: André Théberge, Alain Jacques - Le p'tit Varius

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