'The Forbidden Room' earns $100,000 Toronto film critics prize

TORONTO -- Veteran Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin and his co-director Evan Johnson nabbed a $100,000 Toronto film critics prize at a rollicking dinner gala Tuesday that saluted the best in homegrown cinema.

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The duo snagged the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award for their surreal outing "The Forbidden Room," a series of tales-within-tales featuring international stars including Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, Mathieu Amalric and Roy Dupuis.

The Toronto Film Critics Association announced their top pick at a freewheeling ceremony that also handed $5,000 runners-up prizes to Philippe Falardeau's "My Internship In Canada" and Andrew Cividino's "Sleeping Giant."

"I'm so happy and honoured," Maddin said as he took the stage to claim the big win with Johnson.

"$100,000 is enormously generous, thank you. With it, we hope to bring an NFL franchise to Winnipeg," he said to hoots and cheers from a rambunctious crowd including Falardeau, Cividino and fellow director Deepa Mehta.

Earlier, the critics group named Mehta as the recipient of its Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award -- an honour which allowed Mehta to bestow $50,000 in film services to a filmmaker of her choice. Mehta chose documentary director Nisha Pahuja.

Other prizes went to director Anne Emond, who claimed an emerging artist award for her second feature "Les etres chers," and York University's Vladimir Paskaljevic, who earned the student film award for his short, "Absence Is Present."

Both awards carry a $5,000 cash prize.

Maddin and Johnson claimed the top award for their bizarre cinematic vision, a wild tribute to classic cinema packed with visual effects.

"I just want to take back every negative thing I've ever said about film critics and corporations. Thank you," Johnson said in his brief acceptance speech.

Earlier backstage, Falardeau heaped praise on Maddin, calling the Winnipeg filmmaker "an amazing artist."

"He is completely alone in his category in Canada," said Falardeau, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker for his francophone tear-jerker "Monsieur Lazhar."

"He is a singular universe for himself and I am so glad that he gets nominated because his work has not been shown to a wider public by the nature of the stuff that he does."

Before learning he had won, Maddin said he's certainly not opposed to chasing broad commercial success: "I've been chasing it for 30 years. I'm just not very good at it."

"You don't really want to work in a complete void. And in lieu of mega box office I'll take this, it feels good."

Presenter and actor Don McKellar used his time at the podium to poke fun at Maddin's well-established reputation for low-budget but critically adored art house fare, including "My Winnipeg," "The Saddest Music in the World," and "Twilight of the Ice Nymphs."

"I'm telling you right now that's too much money for Guy. I'm serious," McKellar joked of the $100,000 purse.

"That's more than his last 45 films combined, their total budgets. If I were you, critics -- and this is just a suggestion -- I would give an annual stipend, like a fund of maybe $10,000 to Guy every year for life. And he would make a film for you.

"And you could show it in your clubhouse or whatever and say, 'That's our film. Guy Maddin made that for us."'


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