RodrigoGarcia's Nine Lives has becomethe first US film to win Locarno's top award, the Golden Leopard for Best Film,for 14 years.

The last US film to win thetop honour was Tom DiCillo's feature debut Johnny Suede at the festival in 1991.

Nine Lives, which was the only US title selected for thisyear's International Competition, also picked up the Best Actress Leopard forthe film's ensemble of nine actresses including Glenn Close, Holly Hunter,Sissy Spacek, Kathy Baker and Robin Wright Penn, as well as the Junior Jury's1st Prize and a Special Mention from the jury of the International Federationof Film Societies (FICC).

The best actorprize went to Patrick Drolet in Canadian Bernard Emond's film LeNeuvaine, which proved a verypopular choice with the crowd gathered on the Piazza Grande with cries of"Bravo" ringing out across the square.

The local Swiss film SnowWhite by Samir had been tipped towin a prize but in the end left the festival empty-handed, as did another filmpopular with audiences and critics - Canadian Louise Archambault's featuredebut Familia.

However, one of the festivalgoers' favourites - A PerfectDay by the Lebanese directors JoanaHadjithomas and Khalil Joreige - received the FIPRESCI Prize and FICC's DonQuijote Prize, and two German filmmakers - Yilmaz Arslan and FlorianHoffmeister - picked up Silver Leopards for Fratricide and 3 Degrees Colder, respectively.

Bourlem Guerdjou's Zaina,Cavaliere De L'Atlas was chosen bythe audience of the nightly Piazza Grande open-air programme as the winner ofthis year's UBS Audience Award which had gone to Lagaan, Bend It LikeBeckham, and The Syrian Bride in past years.

Speaking at theawards ceremony, Jury president Vittorio Storaro praised the selection of filmsat Locarno this year and pointed to what he felt was a common theme runningthrough many of the films.

"I was verytouched, as a father, by this selection. 90-99% of the films represent afeeling of my generation compared to the new generation, showing relationshipsand conflicts between fathers and mothers and their sons and daughters."

Rounding off an editionwhich saw a veritable flood of honorary awards and distinctions being handedout on the Piazza Grande each evening, Locarno's Mayoress Carla Spezialibrought Irene Bignardi's reign as artistic director to an emotional close atSaturday evening's awards ceremony by presenting her with the town's honorarymedal in recognition of her services to the festival.

This year's festival posteda total 189,310 admissions - up from 2004's 185,719 - including 68,800 for thenightly open-air programme on the Piazza Grande with Wim Wenders' Don't ComeKnockin' attracting a record 8,500spectators on August 6.

The 59th edition will beheld from August 2-12 2006.

*The festival'sadministrative board unanimously voted at a session on Sunday morning for theSwiss film journalist/director Frederic Maire to be appointed as the successorto Irene Bignardi as artistic director for the coming three editions(2006-2008), after which period the contract will be renewable on ayear-by-year basis.

Maire, who is married with adaughter, said on Sunday that he will move to Locarno and officially take uphis position on October 1. He also indicated that he does not intend tocontinue the post of deputy artistic director which had been held by TeresaCavina until this festival, but would prefer to draw on "teamwork""in an open vision."

Robert Mitchell inLocarno contributed to this report

LocarnoInternational Competition winners
Golden Leopard for bestfilm:
Nine Lives (US) Dir:Rodrigo Garcia

Silver Leopard for second best film:
Fratricide(Ger-Lux-Fr) Dir: Yilmaz Arslan.

Silver Leopard for best first or second feature (shared):
3 Grad Kaelter (Ger)Dir: Florian Hoffmeister.
We Are All Fine (Ma Hameh Khoubim) (Iran) Dir: Bizhan Mirbaqeri.

Leopard for best actress:
The nine lead actresses (Elpidia Carrillo, Robin Wright Penn, Lisa Gay
Hamilton, Holly Hunter, Amanda Seyfried, Amy Brenneman, Sissy Spacek, KathyBaker, Glenn Close) of Nine Lives (US).

Leopard for best actor:
Patrick Drolet for Le Neuvaine (Can)

Special Jury Prize:
Une Couple Parfait(Fr-Jap) Dir: Nobuhiro Suwa

Special mention to:
The Quay Brothers for the visionary atmosphere in the film The Piano Tuner
Of Earthquakes.

Special mention for outstanding performance:
Marco Grieco for La Guerra Di Mario (It)
Xevat Gectan for Fratricide (Ger-Lux-Fr)

Prix De Public UBS (Audience prize)
Zaina, Cavaliere De L'Atlas (Fr) Dir: Bourlem Guerdjou

Video Competition
Golden Leopard Video (shared)
Les Etats Nordiques(Can) Dir: Denis Cote
Masahista(Philippines) Dir: Brilliante Mendoza
Special mention:
Between The Devil And The Wide Blue Sea (Ger) Dir: Romuald Karmakar

Junior Jury
First prize: NineLives (US) Dir: RodrigoGarcia
Second prize: 20 Centimetros (Sp) Dir: Ramon Salazar
Third prize: Fratricide (Ger-Lux-Fr) Dir: Arslan Yilmaz
Special prize: La Neuvaine (Can) Dir: Bernard Emond

Fipresci Jury prize:
A Perfect Day (Fr-Lebanon-Ger) Dirs: JoanaHadjithomaws, Khalil Joreige.

Ecumenical Jury prize:
La Neuvaine (Can) Dir: Bernard Emond

The FICC Jury 'Don Quijote' prize:
A Perfect Day (Fr-Lebanon-Ger) Dirs: JoanaHadjithomaws, Khalil Joreige.

The CICAE/ARTE prize:
Un Couple Parfait (Fr-Jap) Dir: Nobuhiro Suwa

Critic's Week prize:
Gambit (Switz) Dir: Sabine Gisiger