New Internet TV platform Babelgum has announced plans to launch a new online film festival for films up to 45 minutes long.

At a press conference in Venice, Babelgum CEO Valerio Zingarelli also announced that Spike Lee will serve as an honorary judge of the Babelgum Online Film Festival. Zingarelli $20,000 in prizes would be awarded in each of six categories.

The other jurors are Joe Bateman from Rushes Soho Shorts Festival in the UK, Ally Derks from International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Bhuvan Lall from the Indian Independent Filmmakers Worldwide Association, Tiziana Loschi from the Annecy International Film Festival in France, Joe Neulight from Withoutabox in the US, Sandra Ruch from the International Documentary Association in the US, Teri Schwartz from Loyola Marymount's film school in the US, Jess Search from Shooting People and Britdoc in the UK, and Carl Spence from the Seattle and Palm Springs festivals in the US.

In February 2008, submitted films will be shown on Babelgum, where the public will rate each film. Top rated films then go to jurors, with the final vote coming from Lee.

The competitive categories are:
The Babelgum Looking for Genius Award -- for emerging talent in direction, animation, writing and/or camera work.
The Babelgum Short Film Award -- best short under 20 minutes.
The Babelgum Documentary Award
The Babelgum Animation Award
The Babelgum Social/Environment Award - for film addressing a world issue
The Babelgum Spot/Advertising Award

Lee says the initiative is another step in the democratization of filmmaking. 'If you have a film and you are talented and someone has not seen it - that's your fault. There are too many vehicles today. I was from the prehistoric age,' he said referring to the pre-internet age when he began making films.

Zingarelli added: 'The Babelgum Online Film Festival is an exciting
project that will heighten awareness for Babelgum, attract quality films for the competition and give the public an important voice in identifying the next great filmmakers of our time.'

The competition is open to films screened at international film festivals from January 2007 to February 2008, although Lee said that restriction might change. Submissions will be accepted from Sept 15, 2007 to Feb 15, 2008. Further guidelines are available from

Organisers expect about 2,000 submissions.

Lee previously worked with Babelgum offering his short film Jesus Children Of America available on the Babelgum platfor

Lee is also in Italy to do casting and location work for his upcoming
$45m film The Miracle at St. Anna based on the eponymous book
by James McBride, produced by the Italian On My Own Productions and
Lee's own Forty Acres & A Mule Filmworks.

For now, Lee would only say emerging Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino (Crime Novel) is confirmed for the role of 'the lead partisan,' saying the remain casting is complete and would be announced eminently.

Favino comes off two international productions having recently appeared in Night at the Museum as Columbus and is cast as Lord Glozelle in Walden Media's The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Rumors however are swirling around that 27-year-old local box office topper Riccardo Scamarcio (My Brother's an Only Child) will likely be part of the cast.