Top Hugo goes to Iranian film 'Fireworks'

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CHICAGO -- The Iranian film "Fireworks Wednesday" (Chahar Shanbe Souri) on Sunday won the Gold Hugo, the top prize at the 42nd Chicago International Film Festival. The film, a story of infidelity and social hierarchy in contemporary Iran, was directed by Asghar Farhadi.

In the documentary category, a U.S./Iraq entry, "Iran in Fragments," won the Gold Hugo. Directed by James Longley, the film explores the diverse regions of Iraq and the often contradictory views of its diverse population.

A French/Algerian co-production, "Days of Glory" (Indigenes) won a Silver Hugo as a special jury prize. Directed by Rachid Bouchareb, the World War II saga explores the allegiance of the North Africans who fought for the country that colonized them.

The festival, which kicked off Oct. 5 with a gala premiere of "Stranger Than Fiction," continues through Thursday, culminating with a closing-night screening of the British film "Venus."

Hungary's "Taxidermia" won a Silver Hugo for its mise-en-scene. Directed by Gyorgy Palfi, "Taxidermia" is a ribald and surreal dark comedy about obsession and self-immolation.

Three women shared the festival's Silver Hugo for best actress. Dariya Moroz, Viktoriya Isakova and Anna Ukolova won the top acting honors for their portrayals of Moscow prostitutes in "Tochka."

Jurgen Vogel won the best actor Silver Hugo for his portrayal of a convicted rapist trying to lead a normal life in "The Free Will."

Three other films in the main competition received plaques: "Avive My Love" (Israel), "Time" (South Korea) and "Requiem" (Germany).

An American film, "Day Night, Day Night" won the 2006 FIPRESCI Prize, which recognizes first-and second-time filmmakers. The film was directed by Julia Loktev.

"This has been the best festival we've had in the last 10 years," festival founder and artistic director Michael Kutza said.

Other documentary winners included: "Exile Family Movie" (Australia/Iran), which was awarded a Silver Hugo, and "The Trials of Darryl Hunt" (U.S.) and "Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing" (U.S.), which both were awarded a special jury prize.

In the short film competition, "Forgetting Betty" (U.S.), won the Gold Hugo. In the narrative short film category, "Slavek the Shit" (Iceland) won a Silver Hugo.

A Gold Plaque for narrative short film was awarded to "Women Workers Leaving the Factory" (Chile), while certificates of merit were awarded in the category to "Sweetie" (Scotland) and "Wasted" (Hong Kong).

In the animated short film program, "Film Noir" (U.K.) won a Gold Plaque.

"Cranium Theatre" (U.S.) won a Silver Hugo for student animated film.

"Street Thief," directed by Malik Bader, won the Chicago Award, honoring a local filmmaker.

Actress and writer Ruby Dee was presented with a lifetime achievement award during the 10th anniversary Black Perspectives tribute.

In addition, Dustin Hoffman and Stephen Frears were presented with career achievement awards. Frears was in attendance for a regional premiere of his latest film, "The Queen," and Hoffman received his award before the screening of "Fiction."

In addition, a special award was given to actress and activist Betsy Blair for career achievement.

Yoshiyuki Tomino received a career achievement in animation award for his groundbreaking work in anime.

Over the past weekend, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky was presented the festival's Emerging Visionary Award. Andre Benjamin, aka OutKast's Andre 3000, was presented with an Emerging Artist Award.
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