AndreaStaka's fiction feature debut Das Fraeulein has become the first Swiss film to win Locarno'sGolden Leopard in more than 20 years, since the top honour went to Fredi M.Murer's Hoehenfeuer in 1985.

TheSwiss-German co-production between Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion and QuinteFilm of Staka's drama about three women coping with life far from theirhomeland also received the prizes of the Junior Jury and the InternationalFederation of Film Societies Jury.

Whilethe jury's choice was likely to find favour with Switzerland's leading filmfunder Nicolas "Monsieur Cinema" Bideau in his campaign to raise thenational and international profile of Swiss cinema, the decision inevitably hadto be seen in the light of the controversy - now known locally as "Il cosaAlbert" - which flared up mid-week about the extent of jury member BarbaraAlbert's involvement in the development of the film's screenplay.

Inorder to nip in the bud any debate about bias in the jury, Albert had decidedto step down from the international jury, but the festival's somewhat naivehandling of this "faux pas" tainted the reputation of a film whichhad been regarded from early on as the best film in an otherwise middlingcompetition line-up.

Moreover,the end of the festival was overshadowed by the artistic director FredericMaire suffering a dizzy spell on Friday evening during his introduction of LittleMiss Sunshine on the PiazzaGrandeand having to be taken off the stage on a stretcher. Although hiscondition fortunately did not require him to be hospitalised,Maire restedat home all of Saturday and did not attend the awards press conference or theprize-giving ceremony on Saturday evening.

Speakingto a Swiss French press agency, festival president Marco Solari praised the artisticdirector's "enormous commitment" and "great sense of duty"in the preparations for this year's festival, explaining that Maire had alreadybeen "tired" at the start of the festival and "underestimatedthe fact that a festival is a bloodbath".

Whilecritics were less than enthusiastic about the 2006 competition, Maire'soverhaul of the Piazza Grande programme was well received by both press and -more importantly - the public who came in their droves to the nightly open-airscreenings on the town central square. The programme had attracted 70,000spectators by Friday evening (without the final Saturday evening) whereas lastyear had seen 68,000 posted for the whole festival altogether.

Inaddition to playing host to such guests of honour as Willem Dafoe, AkiKaurismaki, Alexander Sokurov and actress Marthe Keller, Locarno also welcomedthe "big three" - Cannes' Thierry Fremaux, Venice's Marco Mueller,and Berlin's Dieter Kosslick.

Theclose of this year's festival saw a flurry of pickups and sales deals.Germany's Media Luna Entertainment picked up world sales rights for DasFraeulein and sold DVD/video rightsfor Angelina Maccarone's Hounded (Verfolgt), the winner of the Golden Leopard in the newlycreated Filmmakers of the Present Competition,to US distributor PictureThis! (a deal with the UK's Millivres was struck in Cannes).

MediaLuna's Ida Martins reported that there was also interest in Maccarone's storyof a sado-masochistic affair between a young man and an older woman fromFrance, Italy, and Hungary. In addition, Media Luna has announced dealsconcluded on the Cannes Critics Week film Pingpong with Switzerland's Columbus Filmverleih, Germany'sArsenal Filmverleih and the Ukrainian independent arthouse traffic.

Inaddition, Wide Management took on the world distribution rights for Locarno'sclosing film L'Orchestra die Piazza Vittorio byAgostino Ferrente, which had its worldpremiere on the Piazza Grande on Saturday evening after the awards ceremony andwill be released in Italy in September by producer Lucky Red.Wide's LoicMagneron told ScreenDaily.comthat there is "strong interest" in this film about the creation ofthe famous Piazza Vittorio Orchestra from a French distributor and revealedthat he has added France's Pierre Grise Distribution and - poignantly given thesubject matter - Croatian television to the list of deals for MarcelSchuepbach's documentary Carla's List. A UK deal is imminent this coming week and negotiations are underwayfor theatrical rights to be sold to Croatia as well.

Inaddition, Jean-Stephane Bron's first fiction feature Mon Frere Se Marie, which was shown on the Piazza Grande last Tuesdayas part of the Swiss Cinema Day, will be released in French cinemas by Haut& Court.

The full list of the 2006Locarno Film Festival prize-winners are:


GoldenLeopard for the best film - Das Fraeulein, dir: Andrea Staka (Switzerland/Germany)

SpecialJury Prize - Half Nelson, dir:Ryan Fleck (US)

PrizeFor Best Directing for the second best film - Le Dernier Des Fous, dir: Laurent Achard (France/Belgium)

LeopardFor The Best Actress - Amber Tamblyn in Stephanie Daley, dir: Hilary Brougher (US)

LeopardFor The Best Actor - Burghart Klaussner in Der Mann Von Der Botschaft, dir: Dito Tsintsadze (Germany)

SpecialMention - Body Rice, dir: HugoVieira da Silva (Portugal)

LeopardFor The Best First Film - L'Annee Suivante, dir: Isabelle Czajka (France)

SpecialMention - So Lange Du Hier Bist,dir: Stefan Westerwelle (Germany)

GoldenLeopard Filmmakers Of The Present - Verfolgt, dir: Angelina Maccarone (Germany)

SpecialJury Prize Cinecinema Auteur - Chand Kilo Khorma Baraye Marassem-E Tadfin, dir: Saman Salour (Iran)

SpecialJury Mention - Tarachime, dir:Naomi Kawese (Japan)


GoldenLeopard, New Swiss Talent - Nachtflattern, dir: Carmen Stadler

SilverLeopard, Kodak Prize - Aschenbrueder, dirs: Markus Heiniger, Steve Walker

ActionLight Prize For Best Swiss Hopeful - La Verite Vraie, dir: Tania Zambrano-Ovalle

SpecialMention - Nouvel Ordre, dirs:Gregory Bindschedler, Jean-Daniel Schneider, Ausonio Tavares de Sousa

GoldenLeopard, East Of The Mediterranean - Bubachki (Bugs), dir: Igor Ivanov (Macedonia)

SilverLeopard, Kodak Prize - West Bank Story, dir: Ari Sandel (US)

Filmand Video Prize Subtitling Prize - Bir Damla Su, dir: Deniz Gamze Ergueven (France)

SpecialMention - Defteri Fisi, dir:Vardis Marinakis (Greece)

CinemaE Gioventuy Jury Prize

Aschenbrueder dirs: Markus Heiniger, Steve Walker, and(Switzerland)

RamZa Sliku Moje Domovine, dir: Elmir Jukic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

SpecialMention - Yasmine Tughani, dir:Najwa Najjar (Palestine)


FirstPrize to Das Fraeulein, dir:Andrea Staka (Switzerland/Germany)

SecondPrize to Chahar Shaben Souri,dir: AsgharFarhadi

ThirdPrize to Suzanne, dir: VivianneCandas (France)

SpecialPrize to Agua, dir. Veronica Chen(Argentina/France)

TwoSpecial Mentions to Half Nelson,dir: Ryan Fleck (US) and Mngotochie,dir: Andrei A. Eshpai (Russia)

NETPACAward - Don't Look Back, dir: KimYoung-Nam (Korea) and

Bliss, dir: Sheng Zhimin (China)

FIPRESCIPrize - Don't Look Back, dir: KimYoung-Nam (Korea)

EcumenicalJury Prize - Agua, dir. VeronicaChen (Argentina/France)

Commendationto Le Dernier Des Fous, dir:Laurent Achard (France/Belgium)

TheFICC Don Quijote Prize - Das Fraeulein, dir: Andrea Staka (Switzerland/Germany)

CICAE/ARTEPrize -Jimmy Della Collina,dir: Enrico Pau (Italy)

SwissCritics Week Prize - Zeit Des Abschieds, dir: Mehdi Sahebi (Switzerland)

SpecialMention - Az Elet Vendege, dir:Tibor Szemzo (Hungary)

UBSAudience Award - The Lives Of Others, dir: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany)