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‘World’ tops AFI Fest

'Mother' vies for Oscar

“Not of This World,” directed and co-written by Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Piccioni, won the grand jury prize Friday at the conclusion of the 13th annual AFI Los Angeles Intl. Film Festival.

The drama, about a young nun who finds an abandoned baby, also won the fest’s Audience Award for best feature film. “World” took away five Donatellos in its native Italy, where it’s a finalist to be the country’s official submission for the foreign-film Academy Award.

Spain has already made up its mind in that regard. At the AFI event in Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, it was learned that Pedro Almodovar’s “All About My Mother” — the festival’s closing-night film — had been selected by the Spanish Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences as Spain’s Oscar candidate. Earlier Friday, Almodovar himself made the announcement at a news conference in Madrid.

At the Egyptian screening, Penelope Cruz, one of the stars of “Mother,” stepped up to read a letter from Almodovar in which he asked her to stay through the end and “look into the eyes of the audience and tell me if they have cried.”

“I really wish I could be there with you in Los Angeles in that marvelous theater,” wrote Almodovar, who advised Cruz to wear “something simple and dangerous” to the screening. She did.

“Mother,” winner of the Director prize this year at Cannes, has grossed some $34 million worldwide and bows in the U.S. on Nov. 19.

In the AFI lineup, “Bobby G. Can’t Swim” and “Snow Days” also won two awards each. “Bobby,” John-Luke Montias’ tale about a low-level drug dealer who has one hour to come up with $30,000 or be killed, won the New Director award and the New Directions prize.

“Snow,” helmed by Adam Marcus, landed the New Writer prize for his brother, Kipp Marcus, as well as the Editing award for Joe Klotz. “Snow” tells of a family’s curse against love, and one member’s efforts to supersede it.

Other American Film Institute awards:

European Film Prize — “Mifune,” directed by Denmark’s Soren Kroagh-Jacobsen;

Actor — Michael Hayden, “Charming Billy,” by William R. Pace, U.S.;

Actress — Ellen Muth, “The Young Girl and the Monsoon,” directed by James Ryan, U.S.;

Documentary — “American Hollow,” directed by Rory Kennedy, U.S.;

Audience Award for Documentary — “Who’s Dancing Now?” directed by Judy Kinberg, U.S.;

Audience Awards for Short Film — “Stalker Guilt Syndrome,” directed by Jonah Kaplan, U.S.; “The Salesman,” directed by Matthew Janzen, U.S.

Festival director Jon Fitzgerald said the festival had increased its box office take this year by 15%.

(John Hopewell and Charles Lyons contributed to this story.)

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