Majidi’s hat trick

Iranian helmer takes third Grand Prix for best film

MONTREAL — Iranian helmer Majid Majidi scored an unprecedented Grand Prix hat trick at the Montreal World Film Festival on Monday, picking up his third consecutive Grand Prix of the Americas for best film.

Majidi won for “Baran,” a tale of Afghan refugees in Iran, ex aquo with “Abandoned” (Torzok), a grim autobiographical story of childhood from Hungarian director Arpad Sopsits.

Majidi won the Grand Prix for “The Colour of Paradise” in 1999 and “The Children of Heaven” in 1997, which went on to garner an Oscar nomination. One of Iran’s best-known filmmakers, his pics have done solid art-house business around the world.The awards for the Montreal World Film Festival were handed out at a ceremony Monday night in Montreal. The fest kicked off Aug. 23.

The Special Grand Prix of the jury, the second prize, was given to the Argentine/Spanish co-production “Son of the Bride” (El Hijo de la Novia), a chronicle of a depressed middle-aged guy, from Argentine helmer Juan Jose Campanella. “Son of the Bride” also took home the award for best Latin American feature at the festival.

Germany’s Oliver Hirschbiegel won as best director for “The Experiment” (Das Experiment), a disturbing story of a psychological experiment gone wrong, and the prize for best artistic contribution was given to Brazilian pic “To the Left of the Father” (Lavoura Arcaica), a period drama from director Luiz Fernando Carvalho.

The award for best actress was given to Sandrine Kiberlain, Nicole Garcia and Mathilde Seigner, the three lead thesps in Gallic helmer Claude Miller’s dark thriller “Betty Fischer and Other Stories” (Betty Fischer et Autres Histoires). The latest from seasoned helmer Miller also nabbed the FIPRESCI Intl. Press Award, with thesp-turned-helmer Todd Field’s Miramax pic “In the Bedroom” garnering a special mention from the FIPRESCI jury.

Robert Stadlober won actor kudos for his lead role in German director Vanessa Joop’s “Engel & Joe” and Quebec writer-director Catherine Martin won in the screenplay category for her 19th-century drama “Marriages” (Mariages).

Best Canadian feature went to Montreal director Denis Chouinard’s socially aware pic about Algerians in Quebec “Tar Angel” (L’Ange de Goudron), the fest’s opening-night selection. The public-vote People’s Choice Award was won by German director Roland Suso Richter’s “The Tunnel” (Der Tunnel), the story of a daring escape from East Germany.

The Ecumenical Jury gave its top prize to Hungarian pic “Abandoned,” with Majidi’s “Baran” garnering a special mention. Special Grand Prix of the Americas for lifetime achievement were given to thesps Sophia Loren, Jackie Chan and Francisco Rabal, and director Fernando Solanas. Spanish actor Rabal died on his way back home to Spain after he received the award at the start of the festival.

Most observers gave fest prexy Serge Losique high marks for one of the better competition lineups in several years and, though business was slow at the festival market, the quality of the pics in all sections was judged to be higher than usual.

Montreal snared some significant premieres, notably the world preem of Miller’s “Betty Fischer and Other Stories” and Leon Ichaso’s Benjamin Bratt starrer “Pinero” and the North American preem of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s French hit “Amelie From Montmartre.” Critics generally lauded the wide spectrum of pics in competition, reflecting both art-house and more popular styles of filmmaking.

(Derek Elley contributed to this report.)

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