Foreign-language features dominated the prize-giving ceremony at the Newport International Film Festival, with the best feature award going to Japanese director Masato Harada's haunting horror-romance, Inugami.
Together, by Swedish director Lukas Moodyson, took the runner-up jury award in the feature competition. A special mention went to the French film Girls Can't Swim (Les Filles Ne Savent Pas Nager), by Anne-Sophie Birot.
Apart from Together, which was acquired earlier this year by IFC Films, none of the prize-winners have secured US theatrical distribution. This has already proved a bone of contention for the team involved in Michael Kalesniko's How To Kill Your Neighbor's Dog, starring Kenneth Branagh and Robin Wright Penn.
The comedy proved the most successful of the US films on display, picking up the audience award and the student award, voted for by a panel of local high school teenagers. But the film-makers told Newport audiences that their film is to be sold by its financier Millennium Films directly to domestic pay-TV. The well-reviewed and evidently popular film is apparently part of a TV package deal, despite having theatrical offers from several distributors.
The annual festival's fourth edition, which opened and closed respectively with French blockbuster The Closet (Le Placard) and Cannes digital film The Anniversary Party, boasted five world premieres, among them Billy Bob Thornton's Daddy & Them for Miramax Films. Also getting its first airing was Grateful Dawg, Gilliam Grisman's documentary about late Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, which proved to be an audience favourite and will be released in the US through Sony Pictures Classics.
Amongst the prize-winners were UK co-directors Bille Eltringham and Simon Beaufoy, who shared the best director prize for Darkest Light. The 1999 film was written by Beaufoy after his Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Full Monty.
Best documentary feature was judged to be Marie de Laubier's Before Leaving (Avant De Partir), also from France. The documentary jury award went to Matthew Testa's The Buffalo War.
Other winners included two films that have already gathered good notices on the festival circuit: Don Herzfeld's animation title Rejected, which was named best short, and Montieth McCollum's Hybrid, a documentary feature that won the Claiborne Pell Award for Original Vision.