The 2003 Bangkok International Film Festival (BKKIFF) has announced a line-up of more than 70 films from more than 35 countries and a new award, the Golden Kinnaree.

In addition, event organisers said yesterday (Dec 2) that there would be five world premieres and 15 Asian premieres.

Gangs of New York, Hero, Chicago and David Cronenberg's harrowing mental illness drama, Spider, have already been confirmed for the event, which runs from Jan 10 - 21, 2003 and opens with Francois Ozon's 8 Femmes.

Commenting on BKKIFF's growth, festival president Juthamas Siriwan, who doubles up as Thailand's Governor of Tourism, said in a statement:

"Bangkok is at the crossroads of Asia which makes it the logical place for an event of such growing significance to the world's motion picture community. This year's festival will stake its position as the prime pan-Asian launching platform for quality international filmmaking."

Crucial to that ambition will be the success of the Golden Kinnaree Competition, which Siriwan wants to become known as the leading film-making prize in South-East Asia.

The first annual Golden Kinnaree competition will open on Jan 17 with the Asian premiere of Frida, which recounts Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's life as a political, artistic and sexual revolutionary. Zhang Yimau's Hero, China's official entry in the 2003 foreign language Oscar race, is scheduled to close the event on Jan 21 along with the Golden Kinnaree Award Ceremony.

Eight other films in the competition include

A Tale Of A Naughty Girl - Buddhadeb Dasgupta - India
Dirty Deeds - David Ceasar - Australia
Dolls - Takeshi Kitano - Japan
La Mentale - Manuel Boursinhac - France
Small Voices - Gil M. Portes - the Philippines
Spider - David Cronenberg - Canada;
Suplement - Krzysztof Zanussi - Poland
The Man Without A Past - Aki Kaurismaki - Finland.

Each year 12 select films will compete in the exclusive competition for five awards determined by an international jury: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Film, which is to be known as the Golden Kinnaree. "We anticipate that the Golden Kinnaree Competition will become to Asia the equivalent of Cannes' Palme d'Or in Europe," Patrick de Bokay, worldwide executive director of the festival, said.

Other programming strands include Anime 2003, a screening and competition of animated films; the Bangkok Short Film Festival; a tribute to French director Agnes Varda, whose credits include Cleo De 5 a 7 and Ulysse; and three workshops focusing on digital cinema, piracy and Asian film financing, including the initiation of a Market Place held from Jan 16-18.