'Ben X' factor at Montreal with audience award win

Also shares best film with 'Secret'

"Ben X," Belgian director Nic Balthazar's portrait of a mildly autistic boy bullied at school, took top honors at the 31st annual Montreal World Film Festival, which wrapped Monday.

Balthazar's directorial debut earned the audience award and shared the juried Grand Prix of Americas prize as the top festival film with French director Claude Miller's "A Secret," the tale of Jewish family during and after World War II.

"Ben X," which had Canadian and U.S. distributors swirling with buying interest Monday, also grabbed the festival's Ecumenical Prize for combining artistic merit with the exploration of ethical, social and spiritual values, according to jury members.

Other winners at the competitive Montreal festival included the jury's Special Grand Prize to Isreali director Ayelet Menahemi's "Noodle," a film about a lonely Tel Aviv flight attendant, while Swiss director Jacob Berger was awarded the best director prize for "1 Day," a film capturing a day in the life of a family.

Spanish director Ray Loriga's "Teresa" received the jury's award for best artistic contribution.

Other trophies handed out in Montreal included "Samira's Garden," directed and written by Morocco's Latif Lahlou, for best screenplay; and most innovative film for the Chad/France/ Morocco co-production "DP75-Tartina City," about a reporter who is thrown in prison, from director Issa Serge Coelo.

In the acting categories, Filipe Duarte and Thomas Almeida, stars of the Portugal/Brazil co-production "The Other Side" by Luis Filipe Rocha, shared the best actor prize, while Andrea Sawatzki, who starred in German director Volker Einrauch's "The Other Boy," got the nod as best actress.

The juried awards were chosen from a field of 20 features, including two U.S. films: Mark Brokaw's "Spinning into Butter" and Christopher Cain's historical epic "September Dawn."

U.S. producer-director James Harris headed up the Montreal jury, which included Spanish screenwriter Javier Angulo Barturen, Quebec comic-actress Denise Filiatrault, Quebec film scholar Nathalie Katinakis, Argentine actress Mia Maestro and Korean actress Kang Su-Yeon.

This year's MWFF edition began Aug. 23 and in all unspooled 230 features and 215 shorts from 70 countries. Next year's edition will run Aug. 21-Sept. 1.