'Diving Bell' hooks Split festival award

First Mediterranean fest draws 5,000

SPLIT, Croatia -- Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" has received yet another prize during its long festival run -- the Fish-hook (Udica) Award for best feature film at the first Split Mediterranean Film Festival, which ran Tuesday-Saturday.

A special mention went to Amor Hakkar's "The Yellow House," an Algerian/French co-production. Juanjo Jimenez's Barcelona-set "Nitbus" won the best short film prize.

Organized on a shoestring budget of less than 30,000 euros ($56,500), from public and private sponsors, the inaugural edition of SMFF nevertheless chalked up nearly 5,000 viewers over five days of screenings.

The healthy audience numbers bears out industry opinion that more cinematic fare from around the world would be welcome in a country that produces only five or six features each year and whose theaters primarily show only U.S. blockbusters.

Festival director Alen Munitic and the event's producer, Tanja Prpic Marenic, were more than pleased with the outcome.

"We are overjoyed about our success with the public because we did it for them," Munitic said. "We're further happy that our work has been recognized, as well as the city's need for this kind of festival."