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Toronto final awards

Although it does not have an official Competition or Jury as do fellow festivals in Venice, Cannes, Berlin or Sundance, winners at the Toronto International Film Festival are bellwethers of some of the important films that will come to cinemas and to other film events around the world.

After presenting nearly 350 films from sixty countries over the past ten days, the 29th edition of the Festival wrapped yesterday with its annual Awards Brunch, held at the swanky Four Seasons Hotel.

With its reputation as an “audience festival” with some of the world’s most enthusiastic crowds, there is no higher honor than the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by AGF. This year, honors went to Hotel Rwanda, a UK-South Africa-Italy co-production directed by Terry George. The film, which screened in the Special Presentations section of the Festival, stars Don Cheadle in the true story of an ordinary man whose love for his family inspired him to an extraordinary act of courage that saved the lives of more than one thousand helpless Rwandans during the 1994 genocide. United Artists will distribute the film in North America this fall, with international sales being handled by Lions Gate International.

The Discovery Award, which is voted on by the press corps representing 750 international media outlets, was given to the film Omagh, an Irish-UK co-production, directed by Pete Travis. The film is a powerful and intense story about the unsung victims and the grieving families left behind by the tragic 1998 IRA bombing of the small Irish market town of Omagh.
The film is being sold internationally by UK-based sales agent Portman Films.

The FIPRESCI International Critics Prize was awarded to first-time New Zealand director Brad McGann’s In My Father’s Den “for its emotional maturity, striking performances, and visual grace.” The film follows a prize winning war journalist as he returns to his remote New Zealand hometown after a 16-year absence and is forced to confront the secret that has surrounded him for his entire adult life. It was the only New Zealand film to screen at the Festival. The FIPRESCI jury of film critics included president Henry Sheehan, (KPCC-FM and KCET-TV, USA), Katherine Tulich (Sunday Magazine and Seven Network Australia, Australia), and Norman Wilner (Metro Toronto, Canada).

The Citytv Award for Best Canadian First Feature was given to Quebecois director Daniel Roby’s La Peau Blanche (White Skin) “for its audacious genre bending as well as its mix of race politics, romance and horror.” Established by sponsor Citytv, the award carries a cash prize of $15,000 and is presented to a first-time Canadian filmmaker.

Another Canadian film also won a top award. It’s All Gone Pete Tong, a Canada-UK co-production directed by Michael Dowse won the Toronto – City Award for Best Canadian Feature Film. The film is a hilarious exploration of the techno club scene on the hedonistic island of Ibiza. The carries a cash prize of $30,000.

Both Canadian films screened in the new Canada First! Program section, specificially devoted to first and second-time Canadian filmmakers. For the first time, films from more established Canadian filmmakers were generously sprinkled into all other Festival sections. This is one of the many innovations introduced this year by Festival Co-Director Noah Cowan, who is credited with bringing a high level of excitement and professional coherence to this year’s event.

Sandy Mandelberger, Industry Editor


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