TORONTO — "The Breadwinner" producer Andrew Rosen says he'll have to tweak the rules of his long-running Oscar pool now that his film is among this year's Academy Awards contenders.
He's hosted an Oscars competition with his friends for 27 years, but Rosen said Tuesday that he's decided all bets are off in the animated feature category.
His independent film is up against studio heavyweights like Disney's colourful Mexican musical "Coco" and the Alec Baldwin comedy "The Boss Baby."
"I told everyone last year that if we got nominated I'd lock that category so there are no hard feelings one way or another," the Toronto-based producer said.
"(That way) nobody gets embarrassed for choosing 'Coco.'"
"The Breadwinner," based on a book by Canadian author Deborah Ellis, tells the story of an 11-year-old Afghan girl whose father is wrongfully imprisoned by the Taliban. She begins to dress up as a boy to help provide for her family.
The Canadian co-production, which has Angelina Jolie as a producer, also picked up a Golden Globe nomination for best animated film.
Toronto actress Saara Chaudry lends her voice for the lead character in the movie, which was written by Canadian filmmaker Anita Doron.
Fellow producer Anthony Leo didn't want to get swept away in awards buzz in the weeks before the nominations were revealed, but as the hours ticked closer, he found himself sleepless in suspense.
"You try and detach yourself from the outcome as much as possible," said Leo in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
"Ultimately it's been a labour of love," he continued, "but as I've discovered that all goes out the window about 24 hours before the Oscars ... it was nerve-racking."
Others contenders in the category include "Ferdinand," about a young bull stolen from his home, and "Loving Vincent," an oil-painted biography about the life of painter Vincent van Gogh.
The producers say Jolie offered her congratulations in a message to the cast and crew, while "The Breadwinner" author Ellis said she was staying low-key as the filmmakers celebrated in the spotlight.
"This is theirs — they made it all happen and they made it extraordinary and beautiful," she said after watching the nominations on television at home.
Several parallels might be drawn between the film's themes of female empowerment and what's considered a pivotal year for women at the Oscars.
Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated in the cinematography category for her work on "Mudbound," while Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman in history to grab a best director nod, for "Lady Bird."
Rosen said that while many believe story of a determined young woman couldn't come at a better time, he believes themes of "The Breadwinner" resonate across generations.
"It's timeless, but timely," he said.
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David Friend, The Canadian Press