In the lead up to its 50th anniversary awards and in the wake of James Hewison's resignation, the Australian Film Institute has begun searching for a new chief executive.

AFI chair Morry Schwartz told The Age newspaper that he hoped the organisation would be able to get someone of the same calibre as Hewison, a former executive director of the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Hewison will leave the organisation on February 29, less than 18 months after taking the top job, but has not given a reason for his departure. He told that he had nothing to add to the comments made in a statement issued by the not-for-profit membership-based organisation.

'It has been certainly a remarkable, invigorating and challenging time for me at the AFI,' said Hewison in that statement. 'The film and television industries are both in periods of great change. Our objective at the AFI has always been to work more closely and dynamically with film and television practitioners, industry leaders, decision-makers and our key partners in government, our sponsors, and of course AFI members.'

The AFI promotes Australian film and television, principally via its awards, which have been revitalised in the last few years. The 2008 awards are likely to be held late in the year.

Meanwhile, writer/director Matthew Saville's feature Noise has been named best Australian film of 2007 by the Australian Film Critics Association and Forbidden Lie$, the inventive Australian film about author Norma Khouri, the best documentary from anywhere. No Country For Old Men was named best overseas film and The Band's Visit was named best un-released AXE film -- despite Madman planning to release it in Australia in May. The Film Critics Circle of Australia, a separate organisation, presents its awards on February 1.