Lee lends hand to online fest

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VENICE, Italy -- Director Spike Lee was on hand at the Venice Film Festival Saturday to support the launch of an online short film festival set up by web portal Babalgum.

Lee will make the final decision on who wins what from the festival categories, which come complete with cash prizes.

Organizers said the Babelgum Online Film Festival will award 20,000 euros ($27,500) to the short films in each of six separate categories.

The shorts will be voted on by the public from the Web site and then the ten top-rated movies in each category will be judged by a ten-member jury. That jury will select three finalists in each category, with the winners selected by Lee.

"I used to be a struggling independent filmmaker myself and so I understand how important a forum like this one is," said Lee, who spoke at a presentation ceremony on the sidelines of the 64th Venice Film Festival. "With opportunities like this one available these days, a good filmmaker who doesn't get his films seen has only himself to blame."

The creation of the festival throws up several ethical issues facing the judges, including the stipulation that "offensive" material is ruled out in the contracts drawn up for submissions from the movie's producers.

The possibility of censorship -- what's offensive to one person in Italy might not be so for a U.S. participant -- and the possibility that voting might be skewed by some viewers voting multiple times raise questions.

For their part, Babelgum officials said the whole system would evolve and discussions were taking place.

Lee said the area of "offensive" material was a grey one but that he fully expected to receive a plethora of complaints by email if anyone is offended.
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