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Departure, a Japanese film, wins Top Prize In Montreal

After a 10 day marathon of world cinema, the Montreal World Film Festival concluded this evening with its gala Awards Ceremony and a screening of the French/Swiss/Belgian film Home, starring Isabelle Huppert. While French-language films are de rigeur in this French speaking city, the Festival’s highest honor went to a Japanese film. The Grand Prix des Ameriques, announced from the stage of the Theater Maisonneuve by Jury President (and Oscar nominated American director) Mark Rydell, was awarded to Okuribitos (Departures) by Yojiro Takita. The film is the story of a young cellist who finds himself out of work when his orchestra disbands, who moves back to his hometown and takes a job as an undertaker. While considered a lowly and regrettable job by some, the young man finds his daily encounters with death teach him about life. Website:

The most awards of the evening however went to a local Quebec film. Ce Qu’Il Faut Pour Vivre (The Necessities of Life), an audience pleaser about an Inuit man suffering from tuberculosis in 1950s Quebec, won three awards. The film received the Special Grand Prix Award, as well as audience awards as Best Picture and Best Canadian Film. The period film is directed by Canadian documentary filmmaker Benoit Pilon, who makes his fiction feature debut with the film. To view the film’s trailer and get more information, log on to the website:

Two other European films nabbed multiple prizes. Turneja (The Tour), Serbian director Goran Markovic’s film about a troupe of Serbian actors who go on the road during the height of the civil war in Bosnia in 1993, won the Best Director prize, and also scored the FIPRESCI International Film Critics prize. Varg (The Wolf) by Swedish director Daniel Alfredson took home both the Ecumenical Prize and an award for Best Artistic Contribution. Actor Peter Stormare (Fargo) stars as an indigenous father in the remote mountains of northern Sweden who tries to protect his family and his herd of reindeer from wild wolves.

Best Actress honors went to German thespian Barbara Sukowa (a veteran actress who has worked with such German icons as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Margarethe von Trotta) for her performance as a housewife who hides a deserter in the waning days of World War II in the period film The Invention of Curried Sausage by Ulla Wagner. The Best Actor prize went to Mexican child actor Eri Canete for his role as a young boy being smuggled across the US/Mexican border in director Walter Doehner's El Viage De Teo (Teo’s Voyage).

Two films tied for the Best Screenplay award. Spanish writer/director Xavi Puebla and his collaborator Jesus Gil shared the prize for Bienvenido A Farewell-Gutman (Welcome to Farewell-Gutman), a bitter satire on the world of international business as exemplified in a hierarchical pharmaceutical company. Director Riyoichi Kimizuka won for his screenplay for Nobody To Watch Over Me, a hard-hitting policier about the intrusion of the news media in an investigation of the murder of two young girls.

First Film honors (the Golden Zenith award) was bestowed on Iranian-born Austrian director Arash T. Riahi for his debut film Ein Augenblick, Freiheit (For A Moment, Freedom). The film tells the tale of two young Iranian children who are being smuggled out of Iran by their cousins to join their parents in Austria. Runners-up includes Silver Zenith winner Weltstadt, German director Christian Klandt’s hard-hitting story of an attack on a homeless man by two drunk teenagers in a small East German town, and Bronze Zenith honoree Tatil Kitabi (Summer Book), Turkish director Seyfi Teoman’s lyrical portrait of family life.
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Sandy Mandelberger, Montreal FF Dailies Editor

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