Gabriele Salvatores scooped Italy's prestigious Nastro D'Argento (Silver Ribbon) prize as best director for I'm Not Scared, during a ceremony held on Saturday night in Taormina's ancient Greek amphitheatre.
Adapted from author Niccolo' Ammaniti's hit novel, I'm Not Scared tells the story of a young boy in a desolate Southern Italian village who inadvertently discovers that his father and the other villagers have kidnapped a small boy. The film stars Salvatores regular Diego Abantatuono, who picked up a best supporting actor award for his role as one of the kidnappers.
The prize for best actor was a tie between newcomer Neri Marcore, the naive protagonist in Pupi Avati's Cannes competition title The Heart Elsewhere (Il Cuore Altrove), and veteran thesp Gigi Proietti, for his role in Warner Bros Italia's Febbre Da Cavallo - La Mandrakata - a revival of a cult 1970s picture.
Best Actress was Giovanna Mezzogiorno for her roles in Ferzan Ozpetek's box office hit Facing Windows (La Finestra Di Fronte) as well as Ilaria Alpi, where she portrays the real-life Italian journalist who was brutally murdered in Somalia in 1993.
The Last Kiss director Gabriele Muccino picked up the best script award with writer Heidrun Schleef for his latest feature, Remember Me, the story of a middle-class family each of whose members dream of fame and riches.
International favourite Monica Bellucci won the best supporting actress for her role in the Muccino film, while emerging actress Nicoletta Romanov and Muccino's younger brother Silvio both won the Guglielmo Biraghi acting prize.
Other main awards went to I'm Not Scared cinematographer Italo Petriccione, and to producer Domenico Procacci for Remember Me, Daniele Vicari's Venice title V-Max (Velocita Massima) and Matteo Garrone's acclaimed Embalmer (L'Imbalsamatore).
The Nastri d'Argento, which are awarded by the SNCCI (the national Italian critics' union) were handed out on the last day of the BNL Taormina Film Festival (June 7th-14th). They are Italy's second highest accolade after the Donatello awards.
Complete list of winners:
Best director: Gabriele Salvatores (I'm Not Scared)
Best emerging director: Maria Sole Tognazzi (Passato Prossimo)
Best producer: Domenico Procacci (Embalmer, Remember Me, V-Max)
Best story: Ferzan Ozpetek, Gianni Romoli (Facing Windows)
Best script: Gabriele Muccino, Heidrun Schleef (Remember Me)
Best actress: Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Ilaria Alpi, Facing Windows)
Best actor (tie): Neri Marcore' (Heart Elsewhere) and Gigi Proietti (Febbre Da Cavallo - La Mandrakata)
Best supporting actress: Monica Bellucci (Remember Me)
Best supporting actor: Diego Abatantuono (I'm Not Scared)
Best cinematographer: Italo Petriccione (I'm Not Scared)
Best sound: Andrea Giorgio Moser (El Alamein)
Best set design: Dante Ferretti (Gangs Of New York)
Best costumes: Maurizio Millenotti (The Importance Of Being Earnest, It Can't Be All Our Fault)
Best editor: Marco Spoletini (Embalmer, V-Max)
Best music: Nicola Piovani (Pinocchio)
Best song: Gocce di Memoria, Giorgia (Facing Windows)
Best foreign director: Roman Polanski (The Pianist)
Best dubbing: Pino Insegno (Lord Of The Rings, Ice Age)
Special Nastri: Luis Bacalov, Carlo Verdone
Guglielmo Biraghi prize: Silvio Muccino, Nicoletta Romanoff