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The Syrian Bride top winner from Montreal Fest


The Syrian Bride, an Israeli-French-German co-production, was the big winner at the Montreal World Film Festival, which concludes today after a 12 day run of more than 300 feature films from around the world.

The Syrian Bride was awarded the Grand Prix des Ameriques, the Festival’s highest honor, as well as receiving the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, the Ecumenical Prize and the Air Canada People’s Choice Award.

The film, directed by Israeli director Eran Riklis, concerns the cross-cultural conflicts that arise when a man and woman on opposite sides of the Israeli-Syrian border decide to marry. The film, which had its International Premiere at the Festival, is being sold internationally by TF1 International.

The Competition Jury, headed by veteran French director Claude Zidi, generously awarded a mix of films in the major categories. Around The Bend, one of the few American films shown here, was also a big winner, capturing the Jury Prize for first-time director Jordan Roberts and Best Actor honors for Christoper Walken, in a rather non-traditional role as a grief-stricken father attempting to reconcile with his family. The film, which had its World Premiere at the Festival, is to be released in late October in the United States by Warner Independent Pictures.

The Parking Attendant In July, a touching human drama from Chinese director An Zhanjun, also won top honors, splitting the Jury Prize and sharing the Best Actor for its lead, Fan Wei.

Le Role De Sa Vie (The Role of Her Life), another TF1 International title, won Best Actress honors for lead Karin Viard and a Best Screenplay award for the writing tream of Francois Favrat (the film’s director), Julie Lopes-Curval, Jerome Beausejour and Roger Bohbot. The film, which has been a critical hit in its native France, is set in the cut-throat world of the filmmaking scene.

Veteran Spanish director Carlos Saura was awarded the Best Director Prize for the Seventh Day, a scathing account of a true-life family feud between two clans in the rural Spanish countryside that ends in horrific violence.

The Zenith Award for Best First Film was won by Mexican director Jaime Aparicio for his film El Mago (The Magician), an emotional drama about a street magician who faces his own mortality and attempts to reconcile with his family and friends.

Zenith Awards were also given out to winners in each of the Festival’s sections, including Best European Film: Cachorro (Spain, Migel Albaladejo), Best US Film: Dear Frankie (US, Shona Auerbach), Best Latin American Film: Conversaciones Con Mama (Argentina, Santiago Carlos Oves), Best Asian Film: The Lizard (Iran, Kamal Tabrizi), Best African Film: Bang The Drum (South Africa, David Hickson),
Best Oceania Film: A Man’s Gotta Do (Australia, Chris Kennedy), Best Cinema and Sport Film: America Brown (US, Paul Black) and Best Documentary: Travelling With Che Gueverra (Italy, Gianni Mina).

Elles Etaient Cinq (The Five Of Us), the Festival’s Opening Night film from Quebecoise director Ghyslaine Cote, won the People’s Choice Award for Most Popular Canadian Film and a special award for Best Artistic Contribution.

Top award winners, which were announced at an Awards Ceremony in the recently renovated historic Imperial Theater, continually thanked the enthusiastic audiences of Montreal, who did turn out in droves over the past 12 days to sample a wildly eclectic program of films from all corners of the world.

Despite a paucity of international film stars on hand (with the notable exception of Spanish actress Penelope Cruz who gave an outstanding performance as unglamorous working class woman in the Italian film Don’t Move) and a highly critical local press that seems to delight in maligning long-time Festival director Serge Losique, the Festival certainly registered with audiences, who were vocal in their support for the visiting filmmakers presenting their films.

While all eyes in the industry now turn to Toronto with its powerhouse lineup of world and international premieres, it is important to remember that film festivals are best judged by the impact they have on local culture, and in that light, Montreal is certainly an event that has great resonance and force….and good food.

Sandy Mandelberger, Industry Editor


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