'Spies' sleuths out top prize at Tokyo fest

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French comedy "OSS117: Cairo Nest of Spies" won the Sakura Grand Prix at the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival as director Michel Hazanavicius' satire beat out 14 other titles for the award and accompanying $100,000 first prize.

Set against the Suez crisis of the mid-1950s, the film pokes fun at both the West and Muslim extremism and stars Jean Dujardin and Aure Atika, who was present Sunday to accept the award with her director.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, helmer of the 2001 hit "Amelie" and co-director of "Delicatessen" in 1991, headed the international competition jury alongside actress Youki Kudoh, producer Bill Mechanic, Indonesian director Garin Nugroho, Japanese helmer Mitsuo Yanagimachi and Marco Muller, director of the Venice International Film Festival.

Another comedy, Fox Searchlight's road movie "Little Miss Sunshine," also proved popular at the festival, winning the best director award for the directing duo of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and the award for best performance by a leading actress for Abigail Breslin as well as a special audience award.

"Thirteen Princess Trees" won the special jury prize — and $20,000 — for Chinese director Lu Yue, while Roy Dupuis took the award for best performance by a lead actor in director Charles Binamé's "The Rocket," the tale of Canadian ice hockey player Maurice Richard.

Patrick Tam's "After This Our Exile" won both the award for best artistic contribution and the best Asian film award for its bleak portrayal of gambling, abuse and arrest in China.

The final prize, Japanese Eyes: Best Picture Award, went to "The Cats of Mirikitani," a documentary featuring an 80-year-old homeless Japanese-American artist living in New York in the wake of Sept. 11.

An estimated 78,000 people attended screenings throughout the nine-day event, a slight increase from last year's figure, though total attendance at the TIFF film market and related events came to only 176,000, down from last year's mark of 190,000.
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