Dark horses win Montreal fest honors

Italo 'Best' nabs Grand Prix as U.S. pix shut out

MONTREAL — A pair of dark-horse pics took home the top prizes at the Montreal World Film Festival on Monday night.

Italian helmer Cristina Comencini’s “Il piu bel giorno della mia vita” (The Best Day of My Life) nabbed the Grand Prix of the Americas, the main prize, while Turkish director Tayfun Pirselimoglu’s “Hicbir yerde” (“In Nowhere Land”) garnered the Special Grand Prix of the Jury, the second most important award.

Canadian and U.S. entries were shut out from jury prizes at what was a more upbeat fest than usual, with strong critical reaction to a large number of pics and more high-profile guests than usual.

The U.S. pics competing were Karen Moncrieff’s “Blue Car” and Burr Steers’ “Igby Goes Down.” Montreal writer-director Manon Briand’s critically acclaimed “La turbulence des fluides” (“Chaos and Desire”) won the Telefilm Canada Award for best Canadian film as chosen by the public but came up empty-handed in the main awards.

“The Best Day of My Life” looks at a widowed grandmother and her strained relations with her extended family. Starring Virna Lisi, Margherita Buy and Sandra Ceccarelli, pic has been praised for its strong ensemble cast and mix of emotional punch and comedy. “In Nowhere Land” is a nuanced drama about family ties and political ideals set in Istanbul.

Helmer honors went to Gallic thesp Sophie Marceau for her feature debut “Parlez-moi d’amour” (“Speak to Me of Love”), about a separated couple.

Seasoned Spanish helmer Carlos Saura won the artistic contribution nod for his latest exploration of dance, music and life, “Salome.” Saura took the same award at Montreal three years ago for “Goya in Bordeaux.”

Actress prize was shared by Maria Bonnevie from the Norwegian/Danish/Swedish/German/French co-production “I Am Dina” and Leila Hatami from Iranian pic “The Deserted Station.” Alexei Chadov, lead in the Russian film “War,” won top honors as actor.

The screenplay prize went to Diego Arsuaga for the Uruguayan/Spanish/Argentinean pic “The Last Train,” which he also directed. The film also won the public-vote award for Latin American film, with a separate jury bestowing the Glauber Rocha Award for Latin American film to Raoul Ruiz’s shot-on-DV “Chilean Rhapsody.” The Ruiz pic also won the award given out by the Fipresci critics jury.

Gritty Belgian cop pic “Step by Step,” arty Canuck psychodrama “Chaos and Desire” and “I’m the Father,” a German pic about a self-destructing marriage were all critically lauded but ignored by the competition jury. Iranian helmer Majid Majidi, who has won the Grand Prix of the Americas three times, headed the panel.

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