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Rookie Zbanic's 'Grbavica' tops AFI fest

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As the 11-day film festival drew to a close, the AFI Fest 2006 juries awarded prizes Sunday to a wide range of international contenders. Taking home the international feature competition's narrative grand jury prize was rookie filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic's "Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams," Bosnia and Herzegovina's official entry for the 2006 best foreign language Oscar, starring Mirjana Karanovic ("When Father Was Away on Business") as a mother dealing with the Third Balkan War. Strand Releasing is distributing the film in the U.S.

The international documentary grand jury prize went to Mark Verkerk's Dutch-French co-production "Buddha's Lost Children," about a Thai Buddhist monk who fights for orphans. Verkerk also received a $10,000 grant from Aquafina.

Winning feature audience awards in a tie were Carla Garapedian's rock activist docu "Screamers" and Lucy Walker's Tibetan climbing docu "Blindsight," plus Swiss filmmaker Fredi M. Murer's narrative film "Vitus," about a gifted boy who rebels against his doting parents.

Receiving special mention was the Danish feature from Peter Schonau Fog, "The Art of Crying," starring Jannik Lorenzen.

The international shorts competition jury awarded the grand jury prize to "Disappearing," directed by American Stefanie Berk, who took home a $10,000 camera package from Dalsa Digital Cinema.

U.K. director Chris Shepherd got a special mention for "Silence Is Golden." Each of the Jury Award winners received $5,000 in motion picture film from the Eastman Kodak Company as well as film-related prizes from other festival sponsors.

Taking home the audience award for best short was "Fair Trade," from German filmmaker Michael Dreher.

The international feature competition jury was comprised of film critic John Anderson, co-author of the book "I Wake Up Screening"; actor-director-screenwriter Vondie Curtis Hall ("Waist Deep"); and filmmaker Don Roos ("Happy Endings"). The international competition documentary jury included actress Daryl Hannah ("Kill Bill"), filmmaker Jessica Sanders ("After Innocence"), and writer-director Wash Westmoreland ("Quinceanera").

Voting in the international shorts competition jury were actress Christine Lahti (WB Network's "Jack & Bobby"); distributor Susan Petersen, vp global film sales and acquisitions for Shorts International; and actor Wilmer Valderrama (Fox's "That '70s Show," "Fast Food Nation").

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2006, the AFI Fest opened Nov. 1 with the U.S. premiere of Emilio Estevez's "Bobby" and went on to host the gala premieres of Pedro Almodovar's "Volver," David Lynch's "Inland Empire" and Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain." Sunday's closing-night film was Zhang Yimou's Chinese epic "Curse of the Golden Flower," starring Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat.

AFI Fest 2006 was presented by Audi and partnered this year with the American Film Market. The festival showcased 91 narrative features, 20 documentaries and 36 shorts from 45 different countries.