Irish thriller FreezeFrame has scooped the top prize at the 50th edition of the Taormina FilmFestival (June 13-20), which is headed by former Venice artistic directorFelice Laudadio.

Written and directed by JohnSimpson, Freeze Frame stars Lee Evans as a paranoid murder suspect whofilms himself around the clock to provide an alibi in case he's ever accused ofan another crime.

The film, which is distributed by Eclipse Pictures in Ireland and Verve inthe UK, is financed by the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission, theIrish Film Board and Universal Pictures, and is co-produced by Parallel World Productions /Wild Fire Films.

The film was awarded thefestival's Euros 25,000 prize for best first film, by an international jurycomposed of fashion designer Emanuel Ungaro, German director Michael Verhoeven,actress Iris Peynado, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino and Istanbul FilmFestival director Hülya Uçansu.

Meanwhile, The Taormina ArteFIPRESCI Prize went to Danish comedy drama Villa Paranoia. The drama,which is directed by writer-director- actor Erik Clausen, focuses on a24-year-old unemployed actress who earns a living by looking after an elderlyman.

Avi Nesher's Israeli-Frenchcoming-of-age tale Turn Left At The End Of The World won the Euros10,000 Taormina Arte Audience Prize.

Judi Dench, Michael Douglas,Mira Sorvino, Antonio Banderas, Margarethe Von Trotte, Italian directorFrancesco Rosi (The Truce, The Mattei Affair), and writer-director LuigiMagni (Childhood Enemies) were all on hand to receive the festival'straditional awards for cinematic excellence in the town's spectacular ancientGreek amphitheatre.

The festival, which Laudadiohas aimed to position as a European launchpad for Hollywood summer blockbusterssince he took over in 2000, hosted the Italian premieres of De Lovely,Starsky And Hutch, The Alamo and Ladies In Lavender.

Taormina also hosted theawards ceremony for the Nastri D'Argento, the Italian critics' prizes whichwere swept by Marco Tullio Giordana's The Best of Youth. (see,April 7).