By William Wolf


Sometimes the public gets it right. The Cadillac People’s Choice Award at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival has gone to “Slumdog Millionaire,” the film by Danny Boyle set in India. The award is determined by the ballots cast by festival-goers as they see films throughout the city. It carries a $15,000 cash prize.

The buzz was hot on “Slumdog Millionaire,” a personal favorite of mine, which tells the story of an 18 year-old youth from the slums of Mumbai who is answering all the questions on a quiz but is accused of cheating because authorities can’t believe he could be so knowledgeable. In that framework his life story unfolds, along with that of others from the slums, and we learn of his experiences that enabled him to have the right answers.

The runner-up in the People’s Choice competition was “More Than a Game,” directed by Kristopher Belman and the second runner-up “The Stoning of Soroya M” by Cyrus Nowrasteh.

Although the Toronto Festival is not engaged in the same kind of competition that characterizes the festivals in Cannes and Venice, a number of prizes are given. The city Award for Best Canadian First Feature has gone to Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujug Ivalu for “Before Tomorrow,” a drama based on the novel by Danish author Jørn Riel.

The City of Toronto-CityTv Award for Best Canadian Feature Film was awarded to “Lost Song,” directed by Rodrique Jean, a drama set in Montreal. A special citation went to Atom Egoyan’s “Adoration.”

The Best Canadian Short Film award has been given to Chris Chong Chan Fui’s “Block B,” about the lives of Indian’s living in Malaysia. That prize carries a $10,000 cash award.

Other honors include the Diesel Discovery Award with a prize of $10,000 to Steve McQueen’s “Hunger,” about the fatal 1981 hunger strike by Bobby Sands in the Irish protests against the British; the International Critics Prize (FIPRESCI) to Derick Martini’s “Lymelife,” a drama involving the effect of an outbreak of Lyme disease, and the FIPRESCI prize for Special Presentations to Steve Jacobs’ “Disgrace,” involving the collapse of a professor’s career as a result of an affair with a student.

In this year’s Toronto International Film Festival a total of 312 films from 64 countries were screened, including 249 of feature length and 61 feature directorial debuts.


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