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Toronto festival winners

By Roger Ebert

TORONTO, Ont.--"Slumdog Millionaire," an improbable mixture of deep poverty and a quiz show, won the Cadillac Audience Award here Saturday at the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival. In a festival without an overall jury, it is the top prize. Movie audiences vote for each movie as they leave its screening, and a statistical system corrects for the sizes of audiences.

The movie, directed by Britain's Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting," "28 Days Later") tells the story of a teenager from the slums of Mumbai who finds himself competing on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." He becomes a national hero. As he is tortured to reveal how he "cheated," flashbacks show his education on the mean streets. It opens on Nov. 28, and is a strong contender for Oscar nominations.

The FIPRESCI Prize, selected by members of the international film critics' organization, went to "Lymelife," by Derick Martini. It stars Alec Baldwin, Kieran and Rory Culkin, Emma Roberts, Timothy Hutton and Cynthia Nixon in the story of two troubled families. They're linked because Nixon is a sales rep for Baldwin's unpromising suburban development. In an affecting drama somewhat evocative of "The Ice Storm," their children are trapped in the middle of an unfolding crisis. This award, sometimes referred to as the "critics' prize," is considered as prestigious as the audience award.

"Hunger," by Steve McQueen, won the Diesel Discovery Award. It tells the story of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. Rodrigue Jean's "Lost Song" was named the best Canadian feature, and "Before Tomorrow," by Marie-Helene Cousineau and Madeline Piujug Ivalu, was named best Canadian first feature. It tells the story of an Inuit boy and his grandmother was are trapped on an island.

The runners-up for the Audience Award were "More Than a Game," by Kristopher Belman, and "The Stoning of Soraya M," by Cyrus Nowrasteh. The award has become an almost certain predictor of box office, critical and even Academy Award success. Previous winners: "Eastern Promises," "Diva," "Chariots of Fire," "Tsotsi," "Hotel Rwanda" and "Whale Rider."

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