'Victim' champ at Roma; De Niro stars at banquet

 Jury prize for Meadows skinhead drama

A Russian drama about a young man with an unusual plan to cheat death was given the top prize at the first RomaCinemaFest, and Robert De Niro arrived to cement the relationship between the Italian event and the 5-year-old Tribeca Film Festival he helped found.

The winner of the first Marcus Aurelius prize ? "Izobrajaya Zhertvy" (Playing the Victim), the third film from director Kirill Serebrennikov ? tells the story of a young man who lobbies the police to hire him to play the victim in murder reconstructions as part of an elaborate plan to cheat his own death.

Shane Meadows' "This Is England," about an adolescent who befriends a group of North London skinheads, was awarded a special jury prize for excellence.

"Neither of these two beautiful films is commercial, but it is our hope that both will reach a wide audience," said veteran Italian director Ettore Scola, the head of the 50-person citizen's jury.

Giorgio Colangeli was selected as the best male actor for his role as a jailed murderer in "L'Aria Salata" (The Salty Air), and "Armenia" star Ariane Ascaride won the award for best actress.

Despite all the awards, De Niro caused the most buzz Saturday, discussing clips from three of his best-known films and screening a 10-minute preview of his drama "The Good Shepherd." He answered questions for an hour before leaving for a dinner co-hosted by the Rome fest and Tribeca. Before the dinner, De Niro said the two events were like "brothers."

Tribeca officials on hand said the major winners at Rome would screen in a special section at the next Tribeca festival in May.