Pic wins fest's People's Choice kudo

The weary-eyed, film-loving auds of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival have voted Nadine Labaki’s “Where Do We Go Now?” as winner of the People’s Choice award — in recent years seen as a guarantee of awards-season attention.

The honor, handed out at the Sunday afternoon awards brunch, comes with a C$15,000 ($15,342) cash prize.

“Where Do We Go Now?”, about women from different religions who band together to protect their small community from violence, is co-written by Labaki (“Caramel”), who also co-stars, and was recently announced as Lebanon’s entry for foreign-language Oscar contention.

Asghar Faradi’s “A Separation” and Ken Scott’s “Starbuck” were voted first and second runners-up by Toronto auds.

Midnight Madness opener “The Raid,” Gareth Evans’ Indonesian martial arts actioner, won top kudos from the popular late-night program’s auds, who chose Adam Wingard’s “You’re Next” and Bobcat Goldthwait’s “God Bless America” as their first and second runners-up.

Jon Shenk’s feature documentary “The Island President,” about Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed’s battle for democracy, nabbed the People’s Choice docu award. Bess Kargman’s “First Position” was first runner-up, with Cameron Crowe’s “Pearl Jam Twenty” taking second runner-up position.

Toronto fest favorite Philippe Falardeau (“Congorama”) nabbed the jury-chosen Canadian Feature Film prize for “Monsieur Lazhar,” about a middle-aged Algerian immigrant seeking political refuge in Quebec. The prize comes with a cash prize of $30,684.

Nathan Morlando’s “Edwin Boyd,” starring Scott Speedman as a notorious real-life bank robber and dreamer, nabbed the jury-chosen best Canadian first feature prize and $15,342. The Canadian first feature jury gave a special citation to Anne Emond’s “Nuit #1.”

The six-member Fipresci international critics’ jury awarded its prize in the fest’s Special Presentations program to Gianni Amelio’s “The First Man,” based on an unfinished Algeria-set Albert Camus novel.

Swedish helmer Axel Petersen’s dark comedy “Avalon” won the Fipresci award for best Discovery program title.

On Friday, the Toronto fest’s sales and industry office reported a 20% growth in delegate attendance year-on-year, with close to 4,000 registered buyers, sales agents, producers and filmmakers.

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