A first-time director from Mexico has shocked critics by picking up the top award at this year's (06) Toronto Film Festival in Canada for his romantic drama BELLA. ALEJANDRO GOMEZ MONTEVERDE, 29, was voted favourite by movie-goers and his film scooped the prestigious People's Choice award yesterday (16SEP06). The stunned director said, "I really hope that this is not a dream and that I don't wake up at film school. "This festival is my first festival, it's my first film, it's my first everything." Bella beat out stiff competition from Patrice Leconte's MON MEILLEUR AMI and the politically charged Dixie Chicks: SHUT UP AND SING. The critics' best film prize went to the controversial mock documentary DEATH OF A PRESIDENT, which imagines the assassination of US President George W Bush. The jury said it was noted "for the audacity with which it distorts reality to reveal a larger truth".