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Toronto People's Choice Award to Slumdog Millionaire

The Toronto International Film Festival came to a close Saturday with the announcements of various awards. Although Toronto does not have an official competition section (positioning itself as a "public festival"), positive critical praise, strong industry reaction and awards from the discerning Toronto public are important components for the life of the films that have risen to the top at this important event. With ceremonies held at the Awards Reception at the Intercontinental Hotel on the waterfront of Lake Ontario, a number of deserving films received their Toronto nods.

The Cadillac People's Choice Award is voted on by Festival audiences and offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Cadillac. This year’s award goes to Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, the story of an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai,who is just about to win a staggering 20 million rupees on India 's “Who Wants to be A Millionaire?” Arrested on suspicion of cheating, he tells the police the amazing tale of his life on the streets, and of the girl he loved and lost. The film will screen later tonight a a free screening at the Visa Screening Room of the historical Elgin Theater. First runner-up is Kristopher Belman's More Than A Game and the second runner-up is Cyrus Nowrasteh's The Stoning of Soraya M.

The Diesel Discovery award has been won by Hunger, the intense IRA drama directed by UK video artist Steve McQueen. The film chronicles the life and death of activist Bobby Sands, whose dramatic hunger strike was the catalyst in gaining special category status for republican prisoners. The film is unsparing in its depiction of prison conditions for Sands and the other political inmates of Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison in 1981, with an especially effecting performance by German-born-but-Irish-raised Michael Fassbender, whose commitment to the part should be acknowledged at awards season. The Festival press corps, which consists of 1000 international media, voted on the Diesel Discovery Award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize and a custom award sponsored by DIESEL Canada.

The Festival welcomed an international jury from FIPRESCI, the international film critics’ association, for the 17th consecutive year. This year's jury was made up of jury president Jonathan Rosenbaum (USA), Nick Roddick (United Kingdom ), Elie Castiel (Canada), Ranjita Biswas (India), Kim Linekin (Canada) and Pablo Scholz (Argentina). The prize was given to Lymelife, an American indie film by Derick Martini, which played in the Discovery section. The film is a poignant coming-of-age tale that examines first love, family dynamics and the American Dream in late 1970s Long Island. Rory Culkin plays an innocent 15-year-old who is a direct contrast to his blustery father, played by Alec Baldwin. After an outbreak of Lyme disease hits their suburban community, the lives of the family and their neighbors begin to crumble in the wake of illness, confrontation and paranoia.

The FIPRESCI Prize in the Special Presentations section was awarded to Disgrace, Australian director Steve Jacob’s adaptation of a Coetzee novel set in apartheid-era South Africa. John Malkovich plays a literary professor whose life falls apart after he has an impulsive affair with one of his students. Forced to resign from Cape Town University , he escapes to his daughter’s farm in the Eastern Cape, where they both become victims of a vicious attack. The film had its world premiere in Toronto.

The Citytv Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film has been awarded to Before Tomorrow, a French Canadian film by co-directors Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu. The film is based on a novel by acclaimed on the novel by acclaimed Danish author Jørn Riel. The film tells the moving tale of a strong Inuit woman and her beloved grandson, who become trapped on a remote island as they face the ultimate challenge of survival. The jury commended the film for “its arresting beauty, its humanist, innovative storytelling and its artistic integrity in capturing the narrative of a people through an intimate tale.” The prize includes a $15,000 cash prize from CityTV.

The City of Toronto-Citytv Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to the film Lost Song, directed by Rodrigue Jean. The film brings to shattering life the story of a young couple with a new-born baby who move to a summer in a remote area north of Montreal Isolation and the difficulty of coping with her new situation and surroundings send the mother into a spiral of depression. The jury lauded the film as “constantly surprising,” and “profound, masterful and devastatingly sad.” A special citation also went to veteran Canadian director Atom Egoyan for her elegiac Adoration, another story about a family in moral and psychological crisis. The prize comes with a cash award of $30,000.

The award for Best Canadian Short Film was awarded to Block B, by director Chris Chong Chan Fui. The film depicts the lives of an expatriate Indian community weaving itself through the contradicting soundscapes of contemporary Malaysia. The jury praised the film’s simplicity, citing it as “an achievement of bringing cinema to its bare essentials." The award offers a $10,000 cash prize and is supported by the National Film Board of Canada.

Sandy Mandelberger, Toronto FF Dailies Editor
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