Bella took the top prize at Toronto’s International Film Festival and was honored by the Smithsonian, The Mexican Embassy and the White House for it’s contribution to the Arts and Hispanic Culture.

In director Alejandro Monteverde’s emotional tale of self-discovery, two people whose lives are changed forever discover that sometimes it takes losing it all to finally appreciate the things that truly matter. Starring Mexican superstar Eduardo Verastegui (Chasing Papi) and Emmy award winning Tammy Blanchard (The Good Shepherd), Bella is a heartwarming love story about life, relationships and our capacity for love in the face of the unexpected.

Bella took the top prize at Toronto’s International Film Festival by winning the highly-coveted “Peoples Choice Award,” a distinction that puts it in the company of such Oscar-winning films as Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, Life is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hotel Rwanda.

Last year’s winner, Tsotsi, won the Oscar for best foreign-language film. It was a stretch even to get “Bella” shown at Toronto, much less win an award. “Going into the festival,” said the Hollywood Reporter columnist Martin Grove, “absolutely no one, including the team of filmmakers that made ‘Bella,’ ever imagined it would capture the People’s Choice Award.”

Since Toronto, the Bella team has won festivals around the world, received a Legacy Award from the Smithsonian Institute and have been honored at the Whitehouse and the Mexican Embassy for Bella’s positive contribution to the arts.

There is speculation that Bella might do what another heart-warming film did 25-years-ago. Chariots of Fire, the little-known independent British film, also by a first-time director and featuring unknown actors, surprised everyone by winning Toronto and then winning an Oscar for best picture over the $35million star-studded Reds.

Perhaps history will repeat itself. In light of the fact that Mexican directors broke a record this year, garnering 17 Oscar nominations, many people hope Bella’s Mexican filmmakers will follow in the footsteps of last years Mexican Oscar winners.

“I have not seen this type of audience response and support since The Passion,” explained Steve McEveety, a producer of The Passion of the Christ and Braveheart.

The grassroots marketing of Bella has generated incredible buzz and momentum which has enabled the filmmakers to pre-sell hundreds of theatres before opening weekend. The filmmakers are giving groups a license to host private screening event before the public release to help create buzz. Some organizations have used these private screenings as fundraisers to raise more than $30,000 in one evening after they pay off the basic cost of the screening (approx $6,000). Supporters are volunteering to promote the film in their local areas and some interns are working full time all summer. The filmmakers have dedicated an entire section of their website, www.bellamoviesite.com, to equip people to promote their film and to host screenings.

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