The Constant Gardener was the big winner at the eighth-annual British Independent Film Awards in London on Wednesday night. The film won the top prize ofBest British independent film, with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz also claiming the best actor and actress prizes.

In a surprise win, NeilMarshall won best director for his horror film The Descent, beating more established nominees including Stephen Frears and Michael Winterbottom.

The Douglas Hickox award,given to a debut director, went to Annie Griffin for Festival. Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall wasnamed best foreign film, while Sean McAllister's The Liberace of Baghdad wasnamed best documentary.

Rosamund Pike inThe Libertine won best supportingactor/actress, the only prize claimed by the film. The Libertine and MrsHenderson Presents led the nominees with eight nominations each, yet Mrs Henderson Presents was shut out ofactual wins, as was the case with Michael Winterbottom'sA Cock and Bull Story, which went inwith five nominations.

Actress Emily Barclay won most promising newcomer forIn My Father's Den. Frank CottrellBoyce won the best screenplay award for Millions.

The best technicalachievement prize went to John Harris for his editing of The Descent, while best achievement in production was given to Jan Dunn's Gypo.

The bestBritish short film was Martin McDonagh's Six Shooter and the Raindanceprize went to Jake West's Evil Aliens.

The special jury prize went to Sandy Lieberson, chairman of Film London, former executive at 20thCentury Fox and MGM, and producer of such films as Performance, Blade Runner, OnceUpon a Time in America and Room With a View.

The non-jury awards went to KeiraKnightley for Variety UK personality of the year, andTilda Swinton, for theRichard Harris award for outstanding contribution to the craft.

Qwerty Films founder Michael Kuhn headed this year's BIFA jury, which also included actress Bryce DallasHoward, editor Mick Audsley, director Mikael Hafstrom, actress AnneReid, actress Amanda Donohoe, agent Sue Latimer,producer Uberto Pasolini,director Hugh Hudson and actor Ashley Walters.

BIFA's eligibility criteria states that films cannot beproduced by a single studio, must be intended for theatrical release and havehad a UK public or festival screening between October 1, 2004 and November 30, 2005.

Eligible films must be produced ormajority-co-produced (or financed) by a British company or qualify as a British film under Department of Culture, Media and Sport guidelines. Films, except forthe foreign film nominees, must also "include sufficient creative elements fromthe UK."

Actor James Nesbitt hostedthe awards ceremony at London'sHammersmith Palais.