MONTREAL — With its prizes for best picture and best actress, "Georgia" was one of two double winners at the Montreal filmfest. The other was "A Mongolian Tale," which earned the best-director award for Chinese filmmaker Xie Fei, and also a "best artistic contribution" prize for Tengger, a popular singer who provided the movie's haunting music.
Made as a coproduction between China and Hong Kong, the film tells the attenuated story of a man and woman who are raised together as children, then expected to marry when they reach adulthood - a forced arrangement that drives them apart for many years, although they never allow their connection to be completely severed.
It's tempting to read "A Mongolian Tale" as a metaphoric account of certain Asian nations that have wrenched apart and drifted together in political terms.
Still, the movie discourages such interpretations by focusing on more intimate matters, especially the challenge of sustaining family ties in a society that has lost much of its traditional stability in recent decades.
Introducing it at Montreal, director Xie stressed the film's universal emotions rather than its depictions of specifically Mongolian folkways. The drama might have more impact if Xie's priorities were reversed. As it stands, it has considerable appeal but never reaches the sublime level of his previous picture, "The Women From the Lake of Scented Souls," recently released on video in the United States.
Other prizes at the World Film Festival included a Special Grand Prix of the Americas, given to Liv Ullmann for her overall contribution as an actress and filmmaker. Ullmann herself was better received in Montreal than the new movie she's written and directed, a three-hour adaptation of the Norwegian novel "Kristin Lavransdatter," greeted by many critics with a mixture of admiration for its ambition and disappointment at its lack of humor and variety.
The annual People's Choice Award, given to the picture most popular with audiences, went to "Don't Die Without Telling Me Where You're Going," an Argentine comedy-drama about reincarnation, directed passionately but ploddingly by Eliseo Subiela, a longtime favorite at this important festival.