Vancouver festival audiences choose Iranian film

A Separation, a family drama from Iran's Asghar Farhadi, won the People's Choice Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Planet in Focus award to SCORE: A Hockey Musical

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, right, and Separation actress Sarina Farhadi show their awards from the Berlin Film Festival. The film won the People's Choice Award in Vancouver. (Markus Schreiber/Associated Press )

A Separation, a family drama from Iran’s Asghar Farhadi, won the People’s Choice Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

The Vancouver Film Festival wrapped up its 16-day run this weekend with both audience and juried awards. The Planet in Focus Film Festival in Toronto also presented awards this weekend.  

A Separation, a film about an upper-class family in the throes of a messy marriage breakdown, won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year and the ensemble cast won a Silver Bear. Farhadi was also declared winner of the Filmmaker of the Middle East Award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival this weekend.

His film was chosen as a favourite by Vancouver festival-goers from among 375 films shown.

Patrick Huard, centre, plays the slacker whose sperm yielded more than 500 children in Starbuck. (VIFF)

Starbuck, directed by Ken Scott, was the favourite Canadian film in Vancouver.  The Quebecois comedy follows a middle-aged slacker, played by Patrick Huard, who learns that he has fathered 533 children through sperm donation, after a group of them sue for the right to meet him.

The $20,000 jury award for best Canadian feature went to Anne Émond of Quebec for Nuit #1, the story of a one-night stand that turns into an mesmerizing examination of the two characters involved. The jury selected the debut film "for its unflinching intimacy and atmosphere of containment with candour and lucidity."  

Wetlands,  another debut feature about the teenage son of struggling farmers who has to cope with the death of his father and resentment of his mother, earned an honourable mention for Quebec filmmaker Guy Édoin.

VIFF presented one of the largest showcases of Quebec films outside of Quebec.   Other awards presented in Vancouver:

  • Canadian Short Film Award ($2,000): We Ate the Children Last, directed by Andrew Cividino of Ontario.
  • Audience Award for documentary: Sing Your Song, directed by U.S.-based Susanne Rostock.
  • NFB Canadian Documentary Award: Peace Out, directed by Charles Wilkinson.
  • VIFF Environmental Film Audience Award: People of a Feather, directed by Joel Heath.

At the Planet in Focus Film Festival, which screens films with environmental themes, Waking the Green Tiger, directed by Gary Mancuse, won the award for best Canadian feature.  The documentary looks at a campaign to prevent a dam on China’s Yangtze River, and investigates the nascent environmental movement in China.

The best international feature was There Once Was an Island, by Briar March of New Zealand. The film was shot over four years on a Pacific atoll that is threatened by erosion.

Other awards given at Planet in Focus:

  • Best Canadian short film: Nanameskueu by Réal Junior Leblanc.
  • Best international short film: Carbon for Water by Evan Abramson and Carmen Elsa Lopez Abramson.
  • Mark Haslam Award: Keepers of the Water by Ayelen Liberona.

The $5,000 Green Screen Award, for films which work to reduce their carbon footprint, went to producer Avi Federgreen for SCORE: A Hockey Musical.