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Arts Toronto International Film Festival Ang Lee, Burns win top prizes

Ang Lee's visually gorgeous, balletic martial arts film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, was the audience favourite at the 25th Toronto International Film Festival.

The Taiwanese film took the Benson & Hedges Film People's Choice Award, beating out high-profile American releases, at yesterday's awards luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. Its success represents a huge commercial boost for a film that, while critically admired both in Toronto and at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, has concerned marketers about the Chinese-language film's chances in North America.

The runners-up for the popularity award included two Australian entries. Rob Sitch's The Dish, a comedy about Australia's secret contribution to the moon landing, placed second, while Paul Cox's Innocence, about a couple who renew their romance after 50 years, came in third -- tied with a British film, Stephen Daldry's Billy Elliot.

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The $25,000 Toronto-CITY award for best Canadian feature (co-sponsored by the city of Toronto and local TV station CITY-TV) went to Calgary director Gary Burns for his stylish and sardonic look at life in a downtown mall, entitled waydowntown.

The jury commended Burns for his "wry examination of contemporary life, risk-taking and strong performances as well as its rich sense of humanity." The film is the third feature by the shy and unpretentious Burns. He said he plans to use the award money to pay off debts and perhaps buy a new computer.

Two Canadian features that won honourable mentions from the Toronto-CITY jury were Denis Villeneuve's Maelström, and screenwriter Karen Walton for her script for Ginger Snaps.

The $15,000 CITY-TV Award for best Canadian first feature film went to Philippe Falardeau's La moitié gauche du frigo, with an honourable mention to Anthony Couture's red deer.

The National Film Board's John Spotton Award for best Canadian short film went to Michèle Cournoyer's Le Chapeau, with an honourable mention to Keith Behrman's Ernest.

The international critics jury known as FIPRESCI gave its annual emerging filmmaker award to the Thai film Bangkok Dangerous, by twin brothers Oxide and Danny Pang. The Volkswagon Discovery Award, voted on by accredited media at the event, went to U.S. filmmaker David Gordon Green's George Washington and 101 Reykjavik, by Iceland's Baltasar Kormakur.

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