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'Eastern Promises': David Cronenberg & Viggo Mortensen Thriller Tops Toronto Film Festival

Viggo Mortensen as 'Eastern Promise's Russian gangster Nikolai Luzhin.

'Eastern Promises': David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen thriller wins People's Choice Award at 2007 Toronto Film Festival

The People's Choice Award at the 32nd Toronto International Film Festival, which ran September 6-15, '07, went to David Cronenberg's Anglo-Canadian thriller Eastern Promises, screenwriter Steven Knight's tale of a London-based Russian gangster (Viggo Mortensen) whose (a)moral compass goes off-kilter after he encounters a midwife (Naomi Watts) who has accidentally uncovered incriminating evidence against his clan. Eastern Promises opens via Focus Features in the U.S. on September 21.

Since its inception in 1978, the Toronto Film Festival's People's Choice Award has been a reliable barometer of a film's award-worthiness in North America and elsewhere. The vast majority of the festival's audience award winners – e.g., Tsotsi, Hotel Rwanda, Amelie, American Beauty, Life Is Beautiful, Shine, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Chariots of Fire, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon – have gone on to receive or be nominated for countless other accolades around the globe.

As a side note, all of the aforementioned titles earned Academy Award nominations in various categories; several were Best Picture or Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winners.

'La Zona' wins FIPRESCI Award

Rodrigo Plá's sociopsychological Mexican drama La Zona was the International Film Critics' (FIPRESCI) choice for Best Film. Written by Plá and Laura Santullo, and starring Daniel Giménez Cacho, Maribel Verdú, and Daniel Tovar, La Zona depicts the consequences of a violent crime at an exclusive Mexico City neighborhood. Variety's Jay Weissberg calls it “an impressive feature debut that sweeps the viewer into the horrors of vigilante justice, doing more than simply pitting the haves against the have-nots.”

More 2007 Toronto Film Festival winners

The CityTV Award for Best Canadian Feature went to Stéphane Lafleur's black comedy Continental, un film sans fusil, about four people whose lives intersect after one man disappears in the woods. The other award for a Canadian feature, the Toronto-City Award, went to Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, described as the director's dreamlike, “very personal portrait of his hometown.”

Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán's Cochochi was the Diesel Award winner, given to new talent. Set in Mexico's Sierra Tarahumara, Cochochi is described as the story of two indigenous brothers (Luis Antonio Lerma Torres and Evaristo Lerma Torres) who are sent to deliver a package to an isolated community. After losing one another, “they each then embark on a separate adventure, leading them to discover a new world.”

Anahí Berneri's Argentinian drama Encarnación was given the Artistic Innovation Award. The film tells the story of an aging actress (Silvia Pérez) who returns to her small town after years of work as a performer in softcore films.

Toronto Film Festival Awards 2007

CADILLAC PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD
EASTERN PROMISES by David Cronenberg

Runners-up: JUNO by Jason Reitman; BODY OF WAR by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro

PRIZE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRITICS (FIPRESCI PRIZE)
LA ZONA by Rodrigo Plá

CITYTV AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN FIRST FEATURE FILM
CONTINENTAL, UN FILM SANS FUSIL by Stéphane Lafleur

TORONTO-CITY AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN FEATURE FILM
MY WINNIPEG by Guy Maddin

AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN SHORT FILM
POOL by Chris Chong Chan Fui

DIESEL DISCOVERY AWARD
COCHOCHI by Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán

ARTISTIC INNOVATION AWARD
ENCARNACIÓN by Anahí Berneri

Toronto 2007 juries

FIPRESCI Jury: Grégory Valens (president, France), Pamela Bienzobas (Chile), Scott Foundas (USA), and Katherine Monk (Canada).

Short Film Jury: Filmmaker Brad Peyton; Director of Original Production for Showcase, Rachel Fulford; and Berlin-based curator Stefanie Schulte Strathaus

Canadian Feature Film Jury: Filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal; actor Colm Feore; producer Roger Frappier; and Olivier Père, head of programming at Cinémathèque Française, and Artistic Director of the Directors Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival.

Diesel Discovery Jury: The Festival's press corps

Artistic Innovation Jury: Dutch multimedia artist Lonnie van Brummelen; Vancouver-based photoconceptual artist Ian Wallace; and curator Christopher Eamon.

Viggo Mortensen Eastern Promises photo: Focus Features.


         
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