Marco Tullio Giordana's epic The Best of Youth has swept the Nastri d'Argento awards, winning seven of the prestigious Critics' prizes, including best director, best screenplay and two collective awards for its ensemble cast.

The Best Of Youth, which won Un Certain Regard at Cannes last year, is a six hour film that was originally conceived as a two-part RAI TV series about the trials and tribulations of two brothers between the 1960s and the present day. It was picked up by Miramax for distribution in the US, and grossed over Euros 2m at the Italian box office for 01 Distribution last year.

Italy's critics union (SNCCI) awarded the Nastro d'Argento for best actress collectively to The Best Of Youth's female cast.

The best actor prize was handed out jointly to Roberto Herlitzka for his role in Marco Bellocchio's Buongiorno Notte, and to the male cast of The Best Of Youth.

The Best Of Youth also won a best screenplay prize for veteran scriptwriters Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli, a best director award for Giordana, best producer for Angelo Barbagallo, best editor for Roberto Missiroli, and best sound for Fulgenzio Ceccon.

Meanwhile, Ermanno Olmi's Singing Behind The Screens won four awards: best story (Olmi), best cinematography (Fabio Olmi), best set design (Luigi Marchione) and best costumes (Francesca Sartori).

Although the Nastri d'Argento won't be officially handed out until June 19 at the Taormina Film Festival, this year, the SNCCI decided to announce nominees and winners a good two months earlier than in previous years, in a bid to boost the earnings of Italian films.

Laura Delli Colli, president of the SNGCI, said: "We now hope that by announcing the winners even ahead of the industry's prestigious David di Donatello awards, we can concretely support at the box office both the most important films and those that have been poorly distributed," she added. "Prizes help good cinema only if they can boost attention towards it and its success."

Full list of winners:

Best director
Marco Tullio Giordana (The Best Of Youth)

Best new director
Franco Battiato (Perduto Amor)

Best producer
Angelo Barbagallo (The Best of Youth)

Best story
Ermanno Olmi (Singing Behind the Screens)

Best screenplay
Stefano Rulli and Sandro Petraglia (The Best of Youth)

Best actress
Adriana Asti, Sonia Bergamasco, Maya Sansa, Jasmine Trinca (The Best of Youth)

Best actor
Roberto Herlitzka (Buongiorno, Notte)
Alessio Boni, Fabrizio Gifuni, Luigi Lo Cascio, Andrea Tidona (The Best of Youth)

Best supporting actress
Margherita Buy (Caterina Goes to the City)

Best supporting actor
Arnoldo Foa' (Gente di Roma)

Best music
Paolo Fresu (L'Isola)

Best cinematography
Fabio Olmi (Singing Behind the Screens)

Best sound
Fulgenzio Ceccon (The Best of Youth)

Best set design
Luigi Marchione (Singing Behind the Screens)

Best costumes
Francesca Sartori (Singing Behind the Screens)

Best editor
Roberto Missiroli (The Best of Youth)

Best song
Lucio Dalla (Prima Dammi un Bacio)

Best director of a foreign film
Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)

2004 European Nastro d'Argento
Fanny Ardant