"Strapped," an HBO Showcase film directed by actor Forest Whitaker ("Bird," "The Crying Game"), won the award for best first feature in the category of First Cinema at the Toronto Film Festival.
It beat 27 other pictures by first-time directors, including "Menace II Society," "Boxing Helena" and "Kalifornia."
"Strapped" was broadcast on HBO as recently as last Saturday. No more broadcasts have been scheduled, but that could change with this surprise award.
"Strapped" is about a young African-American man trapped in a world of poverty and crime. The title is a street term for wearing a gun.
The jury of five international critics said Mr. Whitaker, "with his ambitious direction and personal style, has created a heartfelt portrait of a serious social issue."
"Naked," a stunning film by English director Mike Leigh ("Life Is Sweet") about an odyssey in London,won the Media Prize, voted by critics, for best feature.
The People's Choice Award, voted by audiences, went to Stephen Frears' "The Snapper."