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‘Cordon’ nets top prize at Montreal fest

Belanger's 'Gaz Bar Blues' takes second place

TORONTO — Belgrade helmer Goran Markovic’s “The Cordon,” set against the backdrop of the overthrow of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, won the top Grand Prix of the Americas prize at the Montreal World Film Festival on Sunday.

The competition jury, headed by co-presidents Jan Troell and Andrzej Zulawski, spread the awards around, with no film garnering more than one.

Opening night pic “Gaz Bar Blues,” the sophomore effort from Montreal filmmaker Louis Belanger, took the competition’s second prize, the Special Grand Prix of the Jury. Belanger’s moving story of a man with Parkinson’s disease trying to hold together his family was also voted the most popular Canadian film.

The Air Canada People’s Choice Award for most popular film went to Spanish pic “4th Floor” from Antonio Mercero. The Spanish helmer also took the competition prize as director for his film about kids in a hospital cancer ward.

The competition jury gave its award for artistic contribution to Nicolae Margineanu’s “Bless You, Prison” about a young intellectual in prison in communist Romania. The actress trophy went to Marina Glezer for her perf in the Argentinean/Spanish co-production “The Little Polish”; Silvio Orlando won as actor for his role in the Italian pic “The Soul’s Haven.”

Screenplay honors went to Dusan Kovacevic for “The Professional,” a Serbian/Montenegro co-production about a professor and a former government security agent.

The jury’s innovation award went to Italian helmer Fabio Carpi’s “Memory Lane.”

The Montreal festival added a slew of new Golden Zenith awards this year to honor pics from different sections outside the official competition.

The Golden Zenith for first feature went to Genevieve Mersch’s “I Always Wanted to Be a Saint,” voted on by a jury headed by Iranian helmer Samira Makhmalbaf.

The public voted for the Golden Zenith awards for each of the new geographic categories. Swedish pic “Kopps” from Josef Fares won for Europe; Trent Carlson’s “The Delicate Art of Parking” won for Canada; Mark Rucker’s satire “Die Mommie Die” won for the U.S.; Eduardo Mignogna’s “Cleopatra” won for Latin America; Yoichi Higashi’s “My Grandpa” won for Asia; Nawfel Saheb-Ettaba’s “El Kotbia” and Abdelkrim Bahloul’s “Le Soleil Assassine” shared the prize for Africa; Rolf de Heer’s “Alexandra’s Project” won for Oceania; and Montreal helmer Richard Boutet’s “Street Sex,” about prostitutes, won in the documentary category.

The Fipresci jury awarded its Intl. Critics’ prize to “The Professional.” The Ecumenical jury gave its top prize to “Gaz Bar Blues.”

Fest president Serge Losique announced Sunday that next year’s event will run Aug. 26-Sept. 6, effectively retreating from the controversial date change that marred this year’s fest.

For the first time in years, the Montreal event ended a week after Labor Day this year, causing it to overlap with both Venice and Toronto.

Martin Scorsese — in Montreal shooting “The Aviator” with Leonardo DiCaprio — dropped by the fest for a tribute Saturday night that included a screening of “Mean Streets.” Fest organizers said ticket sales to screenings were up 5%-10% this year.

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