Toronto unveils Canadian and foreign film prize winners


Cannes award winner Xavier Dolan may finally have his Oscar shot after his latest film, Laurence Anyways (pictured), earned the best Canadian film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.

The award, which includes a $30,000 cheque, came as TIFF held its final awards luncheon in Toronto.

“I’m actually surprised, and this is nothing short of comforting for me and inspiring,” Dolan told the final awards brunch after the jury cited Laurence Anyways for its “breathless cinematic energy and its entirely new love story.”

“At one point, I thought this film might be forgotten and here’s a chance to share a film that we’re eager to share with everybody,” Dolan added, before paying tribute to his cast and producer, Lyse Lafontaine.

The last two winners of the best Canadian film award in Toronto – Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies and Philippe Falardeau’s Monsier Lazhar – were also Quebec films and went on to become Canada’s contenders in the best foreign language category at the Academy Awards.

A possible Oscar nominee for Dolan would help his cause as he inches towards the Hollywood market after releasing his first three films in Cannes and shining with Quebec and European audiences as a young auteur.

“It is not an easy film. It’s scary for people to go see, just as it was scary for us to commit to,” Dolan said Sunday of Laurence Anyways, a feature that touches on themes of sex, love and the implications of transexuality and middle-aged relationships.

“We arrive where it begins and for me, it begins with you,” he said before hugging Lafontaine and thanking the TIFF jury.

In other prize-giving, the best Canadian first-feature prize was shared by Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral, which like Laurence Anyways bowed in Cannes, and Jason Buxton’s Blackbird.

That prize is worth $15,000 to the winner, so TIFF doubled the kitty to ensure both Cronenberg and Buxton receive $15,000.

“So I’m drawing a blank, but thanks to all the great brains I worked with on this film, which made it what it is,” Brandon Cronenberg told the awards luncheon as he accepted his prize.

And Winnipeg-based filmmaker Deco Dawson won the best Canadian short film prize for Keep a Modest Head, about Quebec surrealist artist Jean Benoit.

“This is incredible. The festival has been very dear to me, and very encouraging and supportive,” Dawson said from the podium when accepting his prize.

Foreign pictures to snag awards at TIFF Sunday included David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook taking the top People’s Choice award.

And the Colin Farrell-starrer Seven Psychopaths was named best Midnight Madness film by fest-goers, while the Jared Leto rock documentary Artifact by Bartholemew Cubbins won for best documentary.

And international critics gave their awards to Francois Ozon’s Dans la maison for best Special Presentations title, while Mikael Marcimain’s Call Girl won for best Discovery program title.