A more or less continuous tradition since 1949 has honoured Canadian films in yearly awards and ceremonies, surviving almost six decades of the perennial industry doldrums and intra-national flareups. The CFAs became the Etrogs in 1968 (after the trophy sculptor), and in 1980, with the founding of the industry-run Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, became the more bilingual-sounding Genies.
Not surprisingly, a considerable sampling of the more virulently homophobic output of our so-called national cinemas received major honours over the years, thanks to the forever erratic nomination and selection process, especially after the silence on sexual diversity lifted in the 1970s: The Ernie Game (Don Owen, NFB, 1968); The Silent Partner (Daryl Duke, 1978); L’homme à tout faire (Micheline Lanctôt, 1981); The Bay Boy (Daniel Petrie, 1985); Un zoo la nuit (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1988, a 13-award sweep including best film.). And then there’s the Academy’s love affair with David Cronenberg, who received accolades for three of his more phobic outbursts, oozing anal typewriters and all: Dead Ringers (1989, best film, directing, screenplay); Naked Lunch (1992, best film, directing, screenplay); and Crash (1996, directing, screenplay).
What may be surprising is that, alongside this fall of infamy, so much of the queer canon has also received major nods: Mouvement perpétuel (Claude Jutra, 1950); À tout prendre (Claude Jutra, 1963); Walking (Ryan Larkin, 1969, animation); Fortune and Men’s Eyes (John Herbert, scen., 1971); La vie rêvée (Mireille Dansereau, 1972); Dreamspeaker (Claude Jutra, 1977, four awards); Running Man (Donald Brittain, CBC, 1981); P4W: Prison for Women (Janis Cole and Holly Dale, 1982); The Wars (scen. Timothy Findley, 1984); Don Haig (1985, outstanding contribution); Perfectly Normal (Yves Simoneau, 1991); Le singe bleu (Esther Valiquette, 1993); The Fairy Who Didn’t Want to be a Fairy Anymore (Laurie Lynd, 1993); Exotica (Atom Egoyan, 1994, including best supporting actor for the gay character); Love and Human Remains (Brad Fraser, 1994, screenplay); Le Confessionnal (Robert Lepage, 1995); Fiction and Other Truths A Film about Jane Rule (Lynne Fernie and Aerlyn Weissman, 1995); Lilies (John Greyson, 1996); Maman et Ève (Paul Carrière, 1996); Sous-sol (Pierre Gang, 1996); The Hanging Garden (Thom Fitzgerald, 1997); The Five Senses (Jeremy Podeswa, 1999); La Face cachée de la lune (Robert Lepage, 2003); Ryan (Chris Landreth, 2004).
Ultimately, no doubt, the awards measure most the box office-driven whims of industry insiders from year to year, skewed as ever by Toronto-Montreal rivalries, and by the collective low self esteem that ensure kneejerk valorization to those who make it abroad. But the awards also reflect—somehow... inevitably— the centrality of the queer imaginary to the Canadian cinematic traditions.