Moviegoers have crowned WHERE DO WE GO NOW? the favourite feature of the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, giving the Lebanese picture a crucial bump in the race for box office dollars and awards season glory.

NADINE LABAKI’S bittersweet movie, set in war torn Lebanon and centred on a group of women and their unwavering friendship, is Lebanon’s entry into the BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM category for the 2012 ACADEMY AWARDS.

The Lebanese Canadian writer/director was travelling in Europe when she heard the news, which was announced Sunday at a closing brunch for the 11 day fest.

Festival programmer RASHA SALTI accepted on the filmmaker’s behalf, reading a statement Ms. Labaki sent from a German airport.

“I’m thrilled. I’m happy. I’m ecstatic. I’m excited — my day that had just started on the wrong foot because of a flight cancellation has just been turned upside down,” the statement read.

“I’m running around jumping up and down at the Frankfurt airport. Tomorrow we’ll be screening Where Do We Go Now for the first time in Lebanon and I will be proud and happy to announce the news in front of my crew, my family and the Lebanese audience.”

WHERE DO WE GO NOW? claims the prestigious title — along with a $15,000 prize — over several star packed contenders. They include GEORGE CLOONEY’S two well received films THE DESCENDANTS and THE IDES OF MARCH.

Festival director PIERS HANDLING noted it was a surprise triumph for a film that was often overshadowed by hype from Hollywood heavyweights.

“We have some very, very high profile films here at the festival and ones that a lot of people are talking about and I’m sure will go on to awards. But Nadine’s film obviously connected with the public in a significant way because it was a clear clear winner.”

THE CADILLAC PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD is voted on by festival audiences and has typically been regarded as a bellwether for OSCAR acclaim.

Last year’s pick THE KING’S SPEECH went on to take the ACADEMY AWARD for BEST PICTURE.

The BEST FIRST CANADIAN FEATURE AWARD, which includes a $15,000 prize, went to NATHAN MORLANDO’S period piece EDWIN BOYD, starring SCOTT SPEEDMAN as the notorious Canadian bank robber.

“It’s a beautiful surprise. I’m really, really grateful for the film to have been acknowledged,” said NATHAN MORLANDO, who added he planned to celebrate by going out dancing and then using the money to pay rent.

“Hopefully it’ll bring more attention (to the film). Every indie film needs as much attention as it can get. It’s hard to compete with the Hollywood cinema and Hollywood marketing campaign. Any help is great.”

Other PEOPLE’S CHOICE winners included THE RAID, which topped the MIDNIGHT MADNESS slate.

WHERE DO WE GO NOW? premiered to raves at the CANNES FILM FESTIVAL earlier this year and follows NADINE LABAKI’S feature CARAMEL, which was Lebanon’s entry for the 2007 BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM ACADEMY AWARD.

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