Rodrigo Garcia'sNine Lives proved thehit of the 58th Locarno International Film Festival, with the jury awarding itboth the Golden Leopard grand prize and the best actress award, which wasshared between the film's nine leading actresses.

2005 jurypresident, Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, revealed the jury's finaldiscussions went on until 3am. He told assembled press: "We have all decided wewon't play the role of judges. Rather, we will stress the emotions we have beenfeeling." Of the Golden Leopard winner he said: "I have a feeling that NineLives was the film whichhas moved us the most."

"The director's performance was extraordinary", said Storaro of Garcia, son of the Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. "He was really able to direct the actresses in each specific storygiving dramatic performance to each role. The fact that the first act was asingle steadycam shot with that level of acting, while preserving the dramaticcharacter of the story really impressed us."

Nine Lives was filmed in 18 days on a budget of$500,000 with each story filmed in just two days and every scene done in asingle take.

Jury memberValerio Adami commented: "This is a film that tells us a story in a completelynew way, which truly invents a new way of telling a story."

A drama set inand around Los Angeles, the film tells nine separate but interweaving storiesfollowing a period in the lives of each lead character: Sandra (ElpidiaCarrillo), Diana (Robin Wright Penn), Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton), Sonia (HollyHunter), Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), Lorna (Amy Brenneman), Ruth (SissySpacek), Camille (Kathy Baker) and Maggie (Glenn Close).

Of the decisionto award the best actress prize to all nine lead actresses Storaro said: "Thisis something different from what you would expect. We could have given it tofour or five of the actresses but the film has to be seen as a collective work.The performance of each actress was crucial. We felt, eventually, we had togive recognition to the whole group."

Storaro alsopraised the supporting cast which includes Mary Kay Place, Dakota Fanning, IanMcShane, William Fichtner, Aidan Quinn, Joe Mantegna, Molly Parker, MiguelSandoval, Jason Isaacs and Stephen Dillane.

Rodrigo Garcia,a former director photography, told "I'm constantly having ideas for films,short or long, and at the time you have them you just make a little note. WhenI started writing these I started writing them a little bit freeform, withoutknowing what the themes were. I was just picking moments that were interestingto me, but I knew that sooner rather than later I would have to start seeingwhat brings these together."

"I had writtenthree or four when I started looking back and said 'Okay, what's showing uphere' What is the common theme'' and I immediately saw that situation: peoplein unsolvable relationships. I'm always interested in people who have problemsthat can't be solved."

Garcia's firstfilm, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her (which also featured Close, Hunter,Brenneman, Carrillo, Baker and Sandoval), won the Un Certain Regard section atthe 2000 Cannes Film Festival.

Nine Lives will release theatrically first in Italythrough Mikado Film, which pre-bought the rights following the company'ssuccess with Garcia's Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her which sold 247,000 tickets for a boxoffice gross of Euro 1.3m. Magnolia Pictures will release in North America inOctober.