Where Do We Go Now? wins best film at Toronto film festival

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The Independent Culture

Lebanese-born Nadine Labaki's second directorial effort "Et maintenant on va où?" ("Where Do We Go Now?") on Sunday won the Toronto film festival's People's Choice Award for best picture.

Set against the backdrop of a war-torn nation, the film chronicles the determination of a group of women to protect their isolated, mine-encircled town from pervasive and divisive outside forces.

The film stars Labaki, Claude Baz Moussawbaa, Layla Hakim, Yvonne Maalouf and Antoinette Noufaily trying to protect their families from more violence and grief by distracting the men in the village from succumbing to antagonism.

They hatch schemes such as beguiling the men with Ukrainian showgirls and serving them hash brownies at a dance party.

It premiered at Cannes in May and follows the runaway success of Labaki's debut film "Caramel" (2007).

Runners up for the prize were Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation" and Ken Scott's "Starbuck."

The audience also gave a nod for best documentary to Jon Shenk for "The Island President" which follows Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed campaign to enlist world powers to fight global warming and prevent his nation from being swallowed up by the ocean.

The two men came to Canada's largest metropolis together to present the film, seeing an opportunity to bring much-needed attention to the plight of Nasheed's nation of 1,200 islands off the coast of India.

"Given the gravity of the situation and how important it is for us to bring the message across," as well as due to his government's modest means, the documentary seemed like a good idea, Nasheed told AFP.

For Shenk, who won acclaim for his 2003 documentary "The Lost Boys of Sudan," the film is as much about the arrival of democracy in an entirely Muslim country as it is about climate change.

But for Nasheed it is about a fight for survival.

The Toronto film festival is the biggest in North America and has traditionally been a key event for Oscar-conscious studios and distributors because it is attended by a sizable contingent of North American media.

Unlike the Cannes and Berlin festivals, Toronto does not award jury prizes.

Last year the audience prize for best motion picture went to Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech," starring Colin Firth as a stammering British royal pressed to overcome a speech disorder to rally his empire at war.

The film went on to win Oscars for best motion picture, best director, best screenwriting for David Seidler and best actor for Colin Firth at the 83rd Academy Awards.

This year's Toronto film festival was also marked by a rebound in sales. The festival was attended by nearly 4,000 buyers - 20 percent more than last year.

More than 35 films were sold for distribution in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, South America, and Australia, and festival organizers said more sales are expected to be announced in the coming days.

Key acquisitions include "Shame," "Trishna," "Wuthering Heights," "Killer Joe," "The Lady," "Goon," "God Bless America," "Elles," "Your Sister's Sister," "Into the Abyss" and "Sarah Palin - You Betcha!."

"While caution continues in the marketplace, buyers have found many films to choose from in Toronto," said festival co-director Cameron Bailey.

"We should see announcements in the coming days and weeks of further acquisitions that began in Toronto."