Polish filmmaker Slawomir Fabicki has been awarded the Best New European Project for Bonobo Jingo at Rome Film Festival's New Cinema Network.

The award comes with $42,600 (Euros 30,000) in production funds sponsored by Mini.

The jury, headed by Osca- winning producer Cedomir Kolar (No Man's Land), Italian producer Rosanna Seregni and Spanish sales executive Simon de Santiago, called the project 'a beautiful, touching and truly original story told in highly cinematic language.'

Bonobo Jingo is the story of a poor child who finds an escaped Pygmy chimpanzee and makes him his own. Fabicki called the project 'a juvenile movie for both children and parents.'

Fabicki's first film Retrieval (Z Odzysku) was selected for Cannes Un Certain Regard in 2006 where it took the Ecumenical Jury prize.

The $28,400 (Euros 20,000) Siae award for Best Italian Project (sponsored by Italy's authors and editors association) was awarded to Mohsen Melliti for the treatment of Returning to Haifa. Melliti is Tunisian born but active in Italy as a film-maker.

The jury said his film is 'a human look into the suffering at exile on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.'

The story focuses on a couple that must leave the Palestinian town of Haifa upon the pronouncement of the independent Jewish state in 1948. In the confusion, they are separated from their five-month old son.

Melliti's first film Me, The Other (Io, L'altro) starred Raoul Bova.

Two special mentions were also given. 'The jury felt that the quality of the projects presented was very good,' Teresa Cavina, director of New Cinema Network and co-artistic director of Cinema 2007, told ScreenDaily.com.

The special mentions went to Laurent Negre's upcoming project Butano that addresses European immigration through the eyes of a Pakistani immigrant working in a Barcelona petrol station and to Dominique Lienhard for Along the Main Road, which focuses on a family confronting a harrowing moment in a country affected by war.

The co-production initiative took place for four days at the Casa del Cinema in Rome's Borghese Gardens (Oct 20-24). New Cinema Network's Focus Europe consists of 14 European projects in treatment form by filmmakers whose first film was completed in the last 18 months. The finalists have been in Rome presenting their projects to producers in pitching meetings.

The first films of the film-makers in the Focus Europe section have been screened to local film students and they selected a Best European first feature from that category; that jury was overseen by director Saverio Costanzo.

The recognition went to French filmmaker Gerald Hustache-Mathieu for his film April in Love (Avril).

In addition, NCN-International hosted 12 international directors' projects, some inherited from Cannes Cinefoundation Atelier du Festival and HAF, the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The objective is of advancing projects already presented at other co-production initiatives earlier in the year.