In a unanimous jury decision, Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret) was awarded the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix at the 20th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF). The crystal trophy was accompanied by a cash prize of $50,000.
The film was the highest-rated competition entry in a local critics poll published in the official TIFF daily newspaper.
It tells the story of an Egyptian police band who visit Israel for a performance and end up stranded in a small desert town.
The Band's Visit had already won awards at other festivals including Cannes and Karlovy Vary. A Japanese release is slated for mid-December through Nikkatsu.
Jury president Alan Ladd Jr. commented on the selection. 'We all saw it really early and we all thought it was a fine movie. It wasn't about politics but about everyday people living and surviving together.' Kolirin spoke of the cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in the making of the film.
The Special Jury Prize and $20,000 went to China-Japan co-production The Western Trunk Line, directed by Li Jixian, his second feature. He spoke of the 13 years it took to get the film from script to screen.
UK entry Dangerous Parking, directed by and starring Peter Howitt (Sliding Doors), won the Best Director award. Based on Stuart Browne's novel, the film tells the story of a film director's humorous and tragic downward spiral into alcohol and drugs. The film was one of the 15-film competition's three world premieres.
The award for Best Artistic Contribution was given to Italian film The Waltz. With several intertwining stories set in a hotel, the film was shot in one 90-minute single take.
The Best Actor prize went to first-time child actor Damian Ul for his performance in Andrzej Jakimowski's Polish drama Tricks while the Best Actress prize went to Indian talent Shefali Shah for her role in Gandhi My Father, directed by Feroz Abbas Khan. Both were absent from the proceedings.
The Audience Award was given to German racially-themed comedy Leroy, directed by Armin Völckers.
The Winds Of Asia-Middle Eastern category's top prize was awarded to Singaporean film Singapore Dreaming, co-directed by Yen Yen Woo and Colin Goh, while Special Mention went to Malaysian film Dancing Bell.
Now in its fourth year, the 9-film Japanese Eyes section (down from 13 selections last year), awarded veteran director Koji Wakamatsu's controversial 3-hour United Red Army (Jitsuroku: Rengo Sekigun - Asama Sanso E No Michi) the top prize, with a cash prize of Y1m ($8,758). The Special Award went to Tears Of Kitty (Koneko No Namida).
As previously announced, the Akira Kurosawa Award, which carries a purse of $100,000 was awarded to independent British producer Lord David Puttnam, whose credits include The Mission and The Killing Fields. Puttnam also chaired the jury at the first edition of TIFF in 1985.
The red carpet Japan premiere of François Girard's Silk followed the awards ceremony as TIFF's closing film.
Audience admissions for TIFF totaled 68,705, a considerable drop from last year's 78,000, partially due to less titles than last year (326 versus 343 in 2006). However, total attendance at CoFesta umbrella events, including the TIFFCOM market and Akihabara Enta-Matsuri, totaled 193,194 a sharp increase from 176,000 last year.