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'Zatoichi,' 'Barbarian' win awards

The Toronto film festival hands out its People's Choice and best Canadian feature prizes, respectively.

September 16, 2003|From Reuters

TORONTO — Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano's "Zatoichi," the story of a mythical blind swordsman, and Denys Arcand's "The Barbarian Invasions" took top awards at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Based on one of the most popular characters in Japanese movies, "Zatoichi" won the festival's People's Choice award, voted on by regular moviegoers at the Sept. 4-13 event.

The prize is often an indicator of future Academy Award nominations, with past awardees including Oscar winners "American Beauty," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Life Is Beautiful," "Shine" and "Chariots of Fire."

Kitano, who rose to fame in Japan as a stand-up comedian and television personality, won a Silver Lion for directing "Zatoichi" at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month.

Arcand's "The Barbarian Invasions" also added to its list of awards, winning the prize for best Canadian feature. The small Quebec film won the best screenplay award at Cannes in May.

"Barbarian Invasions" tells the story of a former professor whose estranged wife and son, his former mistresses and old friends gather around his deathbed.

The Sunday awards ceremony marked the end of a sorely needed high-profile event for Canada's largest city, where tourism and business were hammered by the outbreak of SARS from mid-March until early May.

Toronto remains the only place outside Asia where people died from the disease, with 44 victims.

The arrival of Hollywood stars like Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan helped erase memories of the outbreak, and the influx of movie executives, tourists and fans helped pack hotels, bars and restaurants.

"I'm not sure we actually saved the city, but we certainly proved the absolute and total vital importance of arts and culture for this community," festival director Piers Handling told the luncheon.

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