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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Amelie wins at low-key Toronto
Améile
Améile: Award-winning film has been a hit in France
The Toronto Film Festival, which was almost cancelled in the wake of the US terror attacks, has ended with the main prize going to French movie Amelie.

The closing ceremony was shelved along with the normal glitzy parties and red carpet fanfare after the events in America.

Organisers and directors said cinema has an important role after the attacks because the public needs an escape and relief more than ever.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Jeunet: Directed Améile, Delicatessen and Alien: Resurrection
Screenings after Tuesday were full because people "needed to get away from television sets with awful images", a festival spokeswoman said.

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain - just called Amelie in the UK - won the People's Choice award after being a box office hit in France.

The award - won in past years by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and American Beauty - is seen by some as an indicator of which films will do well around the world and at the Oscars.

The story follows a young waitress in Paris, played by Audrey Tautou, who is inspired to help her friends and neighbours.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the man behind Delicatessen and Alien: Resurrection, it will be released in the UK and US before the end of the year.

Other winners

The prize's runner-up was Maya, by Indian-born director Digvijay Singh, about a 12-year-old girl who is abruptly thrust into the adult world.

Monsoon Wedding, which recently won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, came third.

Heather Graham
Heather Graham appeared at the festival the night before US attacks
Other winners at the event included Inch'Allah Dimanche (Sunday, God Willing), which critics named best film, and Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner, which won best Canadian feature film.

Winning director of the best Canadian first feature film award, Sean Garrity, said cinema can be especially important after the attacks on New York and Washington.

"What cinema does is really take the unintelligible chaos of reality... and put it in a structure that helps people to make sense of what's going on around them," he said.

Festival director Piers Handling almost cancelled the event on Tuesday, but decided it should continue in a low-key manner.

"Every one of us is deeply saddened by this tragedy, and all of those affected by it will remain in our hearts long after the cinema screens go dark at the end of the festival," he said.

'Inappropriate'

The film world will see a major change in tone and subject matter after such shocking events, he said.

"There's obviously certain images that audiences don't want to see, and that would be not only inappropriate, but commercially disastrous."

The 10-day festival is one of the major film events in the world, along with Cannes, Berlin and Venice.

More than 320 films from 54 countries were screened.

See also:

13 Sep 01 | Film
Hollywood 'changed forever'
16 Sep 00 | Entertainment
High hopes for Billy
07 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Toronto's anniversary high
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