Lebanese war film wins top prize at Toronto fest

Sun Sep 18, 2011 5:43pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Hodgson

TORONTO (Reuters) - A film about the struggles of a village in war-torn Lebanon took the People's Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, an audience trophy that has often been a harbinger of Oscar glory.

"Where Do We Go Now," by Lebanon-born Nadine Labaki, tells the story of village inhabited by both Muslims and Christians. When a wider inter-religious conflict threatens to seep into the village, its women go to inventive and sometimes extreme ends to prevent violence.

The film, which debuted at Cannes earlier this year, is already Lebanon's official entry into the Foreign Language Film category at for next year's Academy Awards.

A festival official said Labaki wrote the film in Beirut in 2007 when armed clashes had broken out. Pregnant at the time, she began thinking about what she could do to change the world as a filmmaker.

"I'm running around jumping up and down at the Frankfurt airport," Labaki said of her win at Toronto in a message read to the awards ceremony's audience.

Last year's winner of the People's Choice award was "The King's Speech," which went on to win the Oscar for best picture. "American Beauty," "Crash," and "Slumdog Millionaire" also won the award at Toronto before going on to Oscar glory.

The runner-up for the audience prize was "A Separation," a portrayal of a marriage in crisis by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. The movie had already won the Golden Bear for best picture at the Berlin film festival in February.

The Toronto audience award for top documentary went "The Island President" about Mohamed Nasheed, leader of the Maldives. It follows the politician, whose island nation could disappear if sea levels rise, as he travels the world fighting against climate change.   Continued...