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Toronto Film Festival's Int'l Jury Awards Home Talents

After 11 days of buzz and excitement, the 40th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) came to a conclusion Sunday, with the film Room winning the top honor and Toronto filmmaker Alan Zweig taking the Platform prize from an international jury.

The top prize, the People's Choice Award, went to Room directed by Lenny Abrahamson, an Ireland/Canada co-production drama about a mother and son living life locked in a room by their abductor. The film, which was shot in Toronto, has already touted for Oscar attention.

Runners up were Pan Nalin's Angry Indian Goddesses, a female buddy comedy; and Tom McCarthy's Spotlight, a dramatic journalism procedural, which is also generating Oscar talks. Winter on Fire, which is about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, took the Grolsch People's Choice Documentary Award.

The People's Choice Award was voted from among the 473,000 attendees announced at this year's TIFF. Dubbed the "awards season harbinger," the People's Choice gong has previously been won by Oscar winning feature films such as 12 Years a Slave, Slumdog Millionaire and The King's Speech.

Canadian filmmaker Alan Zweig was awarded the inaugural Toronto Platform Prize for his movie Hurt about iconic Canadian runner Steve Fonyo, who raised millions for cancer research with his cross-country run 30 years ago. Zweig took the highest CAD$25,000 prize after being chosen from amongst the 12 international artistic films.

"To get this prize from this jury, who are not a bunch of people from Toronto who know me, they're filmmakers those films are exactly the kind of films that I saw here that blew my mind and stretched me, it's amazing," said Zweig holding the Platform trophy.

The Platform jury members include China's Jia Zhangke, Holland's Agnieszka Holland and France's Claire Denis, all world-class auteurs.

"The film Hurt greatly touched all of us with its in-depth observation into a Canadian individual engaging with universal human disadvantages," Jia told Xinhua after the awards ceremony.

The three jurors were only supposed to choose one winner, but also decided to handed out three honorable mentions to other films that impressed them: Gabriel Mascaro's Neon Bull from Brazil, He Ping's The Promised Land from China, and Pablo Trapero's The Clan from Argentina.

He Ping told Xinhua that it's a great encouragement to an experimental film like The Promised Land. "As a master of historical drama, He Ping in this film turns his spotlight onto current social changes in China, which impressed the jury most," Jia said.

Jurors from the International Federation of Film Critics awarded prizes to the Slovakian addiction drama Eva Nova by Marko Skop and to the Mexican refugee drama Desierto.

Two Canadian coming-of-age stories gained recognition amongst the TIFF prizes: Best Canadian First Feature to Andrew Cividino's Sleeping Giant, previously lauded at Cannes, and Best Canadian Feature Film to Stephen Dunn's Closet Monster.

Displacement and immigration was a focus of the film festival, and it was fitting that one of the awards, the FIPRESCI Special Presentations prize, went to Jonas Cuaron's Desierto from Mexico, a drama about a group of would-be immigrants whose dream of entering the United States becomes a nightmare.

The Toronto film festival brought together 399 features and shorts from 71 countries and regions.

"We are a family of world cinema. TIFF is one of the biggest film festivals in the world, and we have the best audiences in the world," said Cameron Baily, artistic director of the film festival.

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