French director Joel Brisse's film The End of The Animal Kingdom (La Fin du Regne Animal) has won the top prize at the Turin Film Festival (Nov 13-21), Italy's pre-eminent event dedicated to cutting-edge cinema from around the world.

Brisse's debut feature, which won the festival's Euros 20,500 prize, tells the story of an anti-conformist man who lives at one with nature but is considered by many to be the village idiot. His only friend is a young girl from the village.

The jury, which was headed by Goutam Ghose and included writer-director Michael Almereyda, Italian director Pappi Corsicato, Candian director Alison Maclean and Portuguese filmmaker Manuel Mozos, awarded a special jury prize to Parviz Shahbazi's Deep Breath (Nafas - E Ameegh), about a Teheran university student who refuses to go to class and a school drop-out and vandal.

The jury also awarded a special prize to Polish director Lukasz Barczyk's picture Changes (Przemiany) about a domineering mother and her four daughters whose lives are turned upside down when one of the girls brings home her new boyfriend. Hako, a film by Japanese director Kanji Nakajima set in a high-tech future won a special jury mention.

The 21st edition of the Turin Film Festival, which is hugely popular among Italian cinephiles, was the first to be headed by joint directors Giulia Vallon D'Agnan and Roberto Turigliatto, who replaced film critic Stefano della Casa.

Among the guests attending this year's festival were US director William Friedkin, the recipient of a complete retrospective of his works which include The Exorcist, The French Connection and the recent The Hunted, as well as cult Italian horrormeister Dario Argento.

The two directors and friends couldn't resist a few jibes about the violence in their films. "My producers always tell me not to show blood. I always tell them I won't. I lie," quipped Argento, who is currently lining up a new thriller, called The Cardplayer.

Other guests included Joe Dante, who presented the international premiere of his latest film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Kenta Fukasaku, on hand to present Japanese hit Battle Royale II: Requiem and Russian director Alexandr Sokurov, who was also the host of a major retrospective.

A motley crue of buyers, including Lucky Red, Revolver and Fandango, also attended the festival, which is housed in the Lingotto, the old Fiat car factory which has been restored into a sprawling and sparkling shopping mall which includes an 11-screen multiplex.

Local film and TV buyers were reported to be circling Battle Royale II, Neil Young's music film Greendale and US director Paxton Winters's competition entry Crude, as well as a number of early works by Friedkin and veteran filmmaker Mel Stuart.