Irish filmmaker Darragh Byrne’s feature directorial debut Parked, starring Colm Meaney and Colin Morgan, won the main award at this year’s edition of the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival which came to a close on Sunday evening.

The International Jury of Iranian-born filmmaker Granaz Moussavi, Belgium’s Frédérique Westhoff and German director Hans-Chrustoph Blumenberg said that they had been “very much moved by the mastery of storytelling of a first-time director about the unexpected friendship of two opposite characters. In a subtle way, the narrative unfolds underestimated values of marginalized people in a bureaucratic society that increasingly fails to recover and maintain human dignity.”

Parked, which is handled internationally by Stockholm-based The Yellow Affair, had its world premiere at last year’s Torino Film Festival and was named best first feature at the Galway Film Fleadh in July.

Argentinian filmmaker Sebastián Borensztein was awarded the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Prize for Chinese Take-Away, a story about cultural tolerance beyond the barriers of language, as well as being voted for the festival’s Audience Award and given a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury.

Meanwhile, the International Jury noted that it had been “excited to discover such an in-depth and mature talent of a young, first time director” in Canadian filmmaker Sébastien Pilote on the strength of his debut The Salesman which also convinced the FIPRESCI Jury with his “poignant portrayal of an ordinary man in decline.”

The festival’s 60th edition also saw the International Jury bestowing three special mentions: for Iranian director Babak Shirinsefat – who was allowed to travel to Mannheim to present his film Walking On The Rail in person; for the actor Laurent Capelluto’s performance in the Belgian film My Only Son; and for the Polish cinematographer Piotr Niemyjski’s lensing of Bartosz Konopka’s feature debut Fear Of Falling.

The International Jury praised Shirinsefat’s “courage in facing and challenging extremely difficult circumstances and yet write, direct, produce, design and edit a film that deals with sensitive issues in a highly controlled and restricted society.“

Other prizes included the Ecumenical Jury’s award for Alon Zingman’s Dusk described as a “gripping portrait of Israeli society“ which “masterfully interweaves four stories on the topics of love, forgiveness, guilt and atonement.”

The festival’s organisers reported that around 56,000 admissions were posted for 2011’s programme of 39 films from 27 countries, while the new industry forum Mannheim Meeting Place revealed that two co-production deals have already been concluded for projects presented this year: Colombian filmmaker Marisol Correa Vega will produce her first feature film Virgen Exotica (working title) with the Norwegian producer Eric Vogel of Torden Films and South Korea’s Wang-tae Lim is planning to team up with Berlin-based Flusswärts Film for the project Triangle.

Meanwhile, two of this year’s European Film Academy (EFA) Short Film nominees were among the winners at Berlin’s Interfilm International Short Film Festival which ended on Sunday evening (Nov 20) with overall attendance reaching a record 16,000.

The Berlin-Brandenburg short film award for best film went to Basque filmmaker Kote Camacho’s The Great Race which had been nominated to the  2011 EFA lineup after winning in Grimstad, while Anca Miruna Lazarescu’s Silent River – an EFA nominee after winning the top prize in Tampere - was named best film against violence and intolerance.

Silent River’s producer David Lindner Leporda told Screen Daily after the awards ceremony that this latest honour is the 43rd prize won by the film since its premiere at the Berlinale last February.